Just what the Adirondacks needed. Big, mean feral pigs.

Sometimes it seems like the Adirondacks just can’t catch a break.  Harsh winters, big storms, a tough economy  And now?  Yup, feral pigs.  That photograph was taken by New York state biologists in Peru, just on the fringe of the blue line.

Researchers say their population has already tripled, and could continue to triple every year unless they are eradicated.

But that’s no easy feat.   Pigs are incredibly hard to hunt or trap.  They’re smart, and they’re aggressive.  And they are eating machines, gobbling up everything — from roots to baby birds — in their path.

They could dramatically change the forest ecology in the Park.

One wrinkle to this story is that people have strong suspicions about where the invasive animals came from.  They were almost certainly released from a local farm in the Champlain Valley.

But there are apparently no clear lines of authority for investigating, ticketing or punishing the people responsible for introducing this latest invasive species.

State officials are scrambling to stop this outbreak, but so far our track record containing invasives is pretty poor.  From the white nose syndrome fungus to Eurasian watermilfoil, this “living pollution” poses a dramatic challenge to the Adirondacks.

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40 Responses to “Just what the Adirondacks needed. Big, mean feral pigs.”

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  1. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Harsh winters? Big storms?
    Right, I remember a harsh winter back in 1979 or 80 when it got to 20 below or colder every night for a month and didn’t even get above zero in the day time.

    But to stay on topic, Wisconsin has an open season on feral pigs to anyone possessing a small game license. And the meat is reported as excellent. Better than domestic pork. What about NY hunting laws?

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  2. Paul says:

    From the DEC website:

    “In New York, people with a small game license may shoot and keep feral swine at any time and in any number. “

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  3. Peter Hahn says:

    You have to hunt them at night with a jack-light. Or, you can use dogs.

    Hot debate. Like/Dislike Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  4. Will Doolittle says:

    Feral pigs, aka wild hogs, are a nationwide phenomenon. Can their presence in the Adirondacks really be traced to one farm in the Champlain Valley? That seems a stretch.

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  5. Brian Mann says:

    Will –

    People knowledgeable about this particular “outbreak” do think there was a single source of the pig release and they think they know which farm caused it.

    But there appears to be little mechanism for investigating, confirming, or punishing the release. This fact strikes me as noteworthy.

    If someone releases a few gallons of oil, that can be a ticketable offense. But the mechanisms for dealing with people who introduce or release invasive species remain pretty primitive — despite the fact that the environmental and economic damage is much more serious.

    The DEC has moved forward with more aggressive rules for dealing with people who transport potentially contaminated firewood, so this is an evolving issue.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  6. Peter Hahn says:

    a couple of years ago I was back in California visiting my parents and we watched the feral pigs digging up the banks of newly restored wetlands. (the pigs are gone now). They dig the earth down to about a foot and eat everything they can find in an expanding area that can be the size of a swimming pool. They are cute – lots of little pigs playing in the mud – but incredibly destructive.

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  7. Peter Hahn says:

    I think what must have kept the population in control in California was the lack of rain for most of the year. Its hard to root around in dry rocky soil. I can’t imagine what they would do to the Adirondack soil. They would make the ATV riders look like environmentalists.

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  8. Paul says:

    It is my understanding that a DEC person took an injured fawn to a “rehabilitatetor” in Oneida county one year. They put the fawn in a garage with several deer or elk heads that were from out west that were awaiting mounting (the rehab guy was also a taxidermist). The fawn got better, it also got Chronic Wasting Disease. Then they released it onto the deer farm and spread CWD into NYS’s wild deer population. If this is a true account then maybe we should consider “ticketing” the persons that foolishly did this. Brian Mann, have you ever investigated how CWD made it’s way into NYS?

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  9. Peter Hahn says:

    I will also add that when I was a child there werent yet any bears or mountain lions in the California coast range mountains. The wild boars were the scary animals.

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  10. Pete Klein says:

    I don’t know if this is a true story or not but does seem plausible.
    There is an island park in the Detroit River known as Belle Isle.
    In the very early days it was known as snake island because it was infested with rattle snakes. Back in those pre-America days, the island was farmed and the farmers released pigs to kill off the rattle snakes, which they did. The island was then called pig island. Farming ended when the city took over the island and made it into a park. The name was then changed to Belle Isle.
    I sure hope hunters get rid of the pigs before we need to change the name of the Adirondacks to the Hog Mountains.

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  11. Paul says:

    Pete, That sounds like a story from Australia. We brought in the frogs to eat the bugs we brought in the rabbits to eat the frogs…….

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  12. Paul says:

    Do wolves eat these things…

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  13. tourpro says:

    “Adirondack Bacon” would be an excellent by-product of this invasion.

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  14. Bob S says:

    Prior to taking any action in this matter I think a complete environmental impact review is in order followed by an APA jurisdictional opinion. Has John Sheehan been heard from yet?

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  15. Paul says:

    Bob that is a good one.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  16. Paul says:

    No one should go hungry in this country?

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  17. Walker says:

    Paul, re: the “injured fawn”/rehabilitator story, here’s what DEC says:

    “The first positive case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in New York State was confirmed in a white-tailed doe from a captive herd in Oneida County…
    The animal that tested positive for CWD was a six-year-old, white-tailed doe from a captive herd in Oneida County.” (http://www.dec.ny.gov/environmentdec/19052.html )

    Now you could suppose that DEC was covering up, and suppressed the story of the fawn. Personally, I’d be inclined to believe DEC, and to figure that the owner of the captive herd came up with the fawn story to cover the likelihood that the deer was one that he imported from the west, already infected. But I suppose that anyone inclined to blame the government for all evil would find the DEC story to their liking.

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  18. Paul says:

    “But I suppose that anyone inclined to blame the government for all evil would find the DEC story to their liking.”

    Walker, ease up. I hope you are not describing me in this ilk. I know where it was first found in that herd (and that it had spread from there to the surrounding wild deer). I am just curious how it got to that farm. Did they import deer from an endemic area? That is a possible alternative. Seems a less likely alternative since there are clear regulations against it and most deer farmers are not suicidal when it comes to their herds and their livelihoods.

    Those who blame the government for “all evil” as you call it are crazy. Those who trust them to never screw up are just as loony. Walker, like me, I am sure you are neither. So don’t so quickly jump to personal attacks every time you see something you disagree with.

    Brian Mann, this off topic a bit but still related to invasisives, but do you know of any sources that have more information regarding how CWD got into a captive deer herd in NYS?

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  19. Paul says:

    I found a little more information from a USGS health bulletin:

    “While it is early in the investigation of these events, New York officials have documented several facts: (1) the owner of the index captive herd was also a wildlife rehabilitator, including white-tailed deer, and that wild deer were commingled with his captive herd and subsequently released back to the wild; (2) he was also a taxidermist, possibly having handled animals that originated in CWD-endemic regions in other states; and (3) he had recently sold captive stock to additional cervid farms within New York (the state has quarantined these herds).”

    Full link below. Assuming that this is accurate. The remaining questions is who brought the guy the injured deer which was a foolish move in the first place. This is not a bald eagle or a whooping crane. Often when someone reports injured wildlife the DEC is an obvious first responder. Like I said above I agree with Brain that people who do these kinds of things should be held more accountable.

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=30&ved=0CGEQFjAJOBQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.aawv.net%2FMembersOnly%2FWHBCWD05_01.pdf&ei=mk0LT839GcL30gGrm8mMBA&usg=AFQjCNGQQQqKIw4QlFDdmym70QJyFCofVA&sig2=alBNJxyqc_FdHXoZeRA9xw

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  20. Will Doolittle says:

    The whole concept of “invasive species” seems forced to me. I guess humans were an invasive species in every part of the globe, outside of Africa, at one time. Lines drawn between “invasive” species and native species seem artificial. Lots of native species were invasives once.

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  21. Walker says:

    Paul, no, I know you’re not a full-blown anti-government type. But the story sounded to me like it could have been concocted by one.

    Thanks for your link– it will be interesting to see if it turns out to be a DEC ranger who brought the yearling to the rehabilitator. You’re right, it would have been a dumb move, but it’s not too hard to imagine, especially if they were doing it on their own time. I’d also be curious to understand why my link says the first case was a six-year-old, and yours says it was an 11-month old.

    In any case, another DEC page says it is a rare disease. It would seem likely, then, that it will not spread rapidly, and maybe the quarantine effort will be effective.

    As for the pigs, I know them from camping in Florida– they’re really something. Let’s hope they find the mountains not to their liking!

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  22. Walker says:

    Will, you’re right, though when a species introduced by human activity completely obliterates a species that was previously doing just fine, it is at the very least, unfortunate. And some invasive species are just plain nasty– feral pigs, rock snot, zebra mussels and millefoil come to mind. And diseases and insects are invasive species too– you really wouldn’t want to take a “leave it alone– it’s just evolution” approach to late blight, Chestnut blight, Dutch Elm disease, Emerald Ash borer, etc.

    But I’ve been to a remote park in Florida with beautiful stands of hundred year old Live Oaks that the park management was considering removing because they were non-native. It gets tricky!

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  23. tootightmike says:

    Tourpro,
    While I’m eager to help eat these pigs, as a gardener, I hope they’re not the only thing left to eat…the deer are bad enough!

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  24. Mervel says:

    I didn’t think they could exist in subzero temps? But I guess we don’t have those anymore.

    The only effective way to eradicate them is poisoning, but that is likely to be more destructive then the pigs are.

    It’s how we essentially almost obliterated coyotes in the 1970′s in the great plains. Once you couldn’t poison them or shoot them from the sky they came back big time.

    I think these pigs can have 3-4 litters of 12 or so every single year.

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  25. Paul says:

    “I’d also be curious to understand why my link says the first case was a six-year-old, and yours says it was an 11-month old

    Good question.

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  26. Sullivan County, NY Feral Hogs Signal GOP Pres. Victory in 2012?

    http://www.gunkvillejournal.net/WTF_hog_the_vote.html

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  27. tourpro says:

    @tootightmike

    You bring the salad, I’ll bring the pork-chops. Win-Win.

    Now, if we could get Rulf’s to throw in some apple sauce, we’d have pretty good meal.

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  28. tootightmike says:

    Oh the joys of global warming…feral pigs, west Nile virus, allium moths, and next…rattlesnakes!! I can’t wait!

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  29. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Rattlesnakes are native.

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  30. oa says:

    To paraphrase Tom T. Hall, Who’s Gonna Shoot Them Hogs? I’ll volunteer. Also, sort of mystifying trying to figure out the neg ratings on tootight, walker, knuck and tourpro comments. Weird.

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  31. Paul says:

    If you want to be a purist Will is correct.

    Evolution is a process that constantly makes new invasives (even within a species) that are then tested for survival within the environment.

    Human interaction has greatly changed that process in many cases. But we are part of the environment from an evolutionary perspective.

    Walker your example of Florida oaks were never even native anywhere at one time.

    Bats are the most widely dispersed mammals on earth because the have wings. They had wings before us and I am sure have carried things unintentionally as well over time.

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  32. Paul says:

    Also, we need to remember that we also have evolved the ability to understand what we are doing and can change our behavior if we think it is warranted.

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  33. jeff says:

    Tagging all livestock might provide a tracking mechanism. Hard for game farms, or perhaps not.

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  34. Walker says:

    KLH: “Rattlesnakes are native.”

    Not north of Lake George they’re not. (yet)

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  35. Walker says:

    Paul: “Florida oaks were never even native anywhere at one time.”

    Surely somewhere? But you mean in the U.S., I guess. They’re really wonderful trees, in any case!

    The thing about “invasive” species is, you have to pick a time-frame in order to declare any given species invasive– go back far enough, and every species is invasive. I think frequently what is meant, really, is “introduced by human activity.” And indeed, checking Wikipedia belatedly, they equate the term “introduced species” and then go on to speak of some such species as beneficial, and leading to increases in biodiversity and bioproductivity. Definitely looks like murky territory to me!

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  36. Paul says:

    Walker, I didn’t make my point very well. I was saying that probably even where that particular species of Oak came from before it got to Florida is probably not where it got started.

    I think that you and I agree on this topic. Limiting the unwanted introduction of species to an area is a good thing. You can (and we do) introduce new species to an area. If we do it we better be pretty careful.

    My point above on Will’s comment was that he is technically correct that “introduced by human activity” is a natural part of the evolutionary landscape. And it comes along with all the changes that may be viewed by many as negative.

    One story I have been reading about recently is the killing of Aspen trees out west by something that they don’t quite understand yet. Realtors were talking about how property values are being affected by the loss of the trees and the changes that brings to the mountain vistas. Apparently in many areas there are only large groves of high altitude aspens that came about due to widespread mining activity creating better conditions for tree growth on the steep slopes! So the environment is going back to a more “native” state thanks maybe to an invasive. Weird, we are definitely an important part of the environment in which we live.

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  37. Paul says:

    I did a little more digging. It looks like the Aspens may be dying due to belated symptoms caused by serious drought between 2000 and 2004. If that research is correct we can forget about the “invasive” theory I mentioned above. That looks to be the old theory. None-the-less the landscape may be reverting to a more early condition that existed prior to the mining.

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  38. tommy says:

    anyone like the new ‘ladybugs’ from china that replaced our original native ladybugs?or cluster flies?both introduced by DEC and now noxious invasives.

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  39. Paul says:

    I hate lady bugs and cluster flies. Anyone know a good way to get rid of them short of burning down your own camp?

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  40. Two Cents says:

    What ever you do don’t squash the lady bugs. The orange goo will attract more.

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