San Diego County has a pig problem. The Los Angeles Times reports that several hundred wild pigs have become a serious threat to the county’s native flora and fauna. The invasive species has no natural predators, reproduces quickly and easily and when it comes to diet — well, there’s a reason that over-eating is sometimes known as “pigging out.”
Weighing up to 300 pounds when fully grown, the feral hogs are ferocious foragers. Biologists are concerned that the wild pigs are unfair competition for the native deer population. They are also worried for the county’s ground-nesting birds.
But the pigs may pose an even greater danger to plant life. Their range includes areas of San Diego county recently ravaged by wildfires, and the pigs are eating new-growth trees. Coastal live oaks and black oaks are also impacted by the wild hogs. The oak trees in San Diego are already weakened by climate change and infestations of the gold-spotted oak borer. It doesn’t help that the pigs have an appetite for acorns.
Cleveland National Forest supervisor William Metz told the LA Times that “[f]urther stress caused by pigs could present a significant problem in oak habitats”.
The Forest Service and Department of Fish and Game are working with local officials as well as representatives of the Barona band of Mission Indians and the Viejas band of Kumeyaay Indians, whose sovereign lands overlap with the wild pigs’ habitat, to develop a solution. The proposal includes trapping the pigs or hiring professional aerial hunters. The hunters would likely shoot the feral hogs from a helicopter.
PETA opposes the plan. Martin Mersereau, the organization’s director of cruelty investigations, spoke out against the proposed hunting. “The feral pigs are there through no fault of their own,” Merseau told the LA Times. PETA has called aerial hunting “crueler than cruel,” according to the Times.
In addition to the cruelty posed by hunting, it’s still a flawed solution. The pigs’ population numbers could easily rise again due to their extreme fertility. Or even if the hogs were fully exterminated, more of the animals could migrate from a neighboring region. According to the Times’ estimate, 56 of California’s 58 counties also have feral pigs.
“Even if all the pigs were to be removed [from San Diego county], the potential for wild pigs repopulating the area remains,” Metz said.
Unfortunately, as with any invasive species problem, there’s no easy answer. A public hearing may be held later this month to discuss the proposed eradication plan.
Photo credit: ufoncz