Monday, July 18, 2011

Controlling the Feral Pig Population... or Feeding the Beast?
In the past few weeks, Southern California has been thrown into the limelight in the battle of controlling the feral pig population. News reports have come out describing how the U.S. Forest Service is going to begin trapping and euthanizing these animals to reduce the population or trying to flat out 'exterminate them'. 

Please bear with me a moment while my inner voice has a good chuckle...

'Buahahahahahahaha!! Exterminate? Really? Buahahahahaha! Stop! I can't breathe!'

It's not totally out of my system, I could go on and on, but do they seriously think they can reduce their numbers over that vast an area? I don't think the U.S. Forest Service means to be THAT specific, but this piece written by Ed Zieralski back on June 1, 2011 seems to say so. I think the U.S. Forest Service just wants to make an impression on the public.
"Our focus has to be what we can do at this point to control the effect they are having now," said Joan Friedlander, supervising ranger of the Palomar District of the Cleveland National Forest. "But it also has to be about controlling the population, keeping it low and at a threshold so it’s not growing exponentially and beyond what we can handle."
Maybe over a long period of time and a few well-placed bombs, but they are talking about attempting this over an incredibly large, difficult to get through area. It's thick in there people. Most of this discussion has been about the areas near or in the Cleveland National Forest. It's rumored that there are between 200-300 hogs down there roaming and multiplying left and right. I've been down there a few times. While they may be there, I have never seen even one.  I know a few guys who have taken pigs in this area, too.
Hunters who spend a lot of time in the backcountry say the population is three to four times that now and it will be useless to try and eradicate them. 
This hunter wonders what 'backcountry' they are talking about? Why, the private parts of course. The public land where they describe them to be, well, I have hiked it and hunted it hard with my buddy Michael - over 7 miles of hilly, rocky terrain - and we didn't see any rooting, tracks or hogs. I know a few other who have done the same thing. Hmmmm, running rampant they are not. I am not saying that we shouldn't be concerned or that feral pigs aren't a nuisance, I am just saying that the articles paint a different picture. Personally, I lean towards Jim Mathews response to the situation.

So, imagine my delight, followed by surprise, when I read The Press-Enterprise today and one of the main stories is about hogs in the Santa Ana River Basin. This story peeked my interest because I know this area.
In an effort to control the population, the Department of Fish and Game has long issued tags to hunters for wild pigs. But it's not enough to stem the increase, considering their rapid reproduction and lack of predators, said Tremor, who estimates the population along the San Diego River at 120 or more.

About the same number are believed to roam the Santa Ana River area between Riverside and Norco. Pigs have lived there since at least the 1960s after they escaped or were released from local farms, according to a 2009 report by the Conservation Biology Institute.
As a hunter, this story is misleading. Sure, tags are issued by the DFG, but YOU CAN'T (legally) HUNT THE RIVER BASIN where the hogs are! Trust me, I have inquired. Am I misinformed? Prove me wrong. I have researched, asked around and get the same answer. I have called and asked the DFG. I have checked out the maps. I have also checked the regulations for firearms and archery equipment. You can't hunt it. Tags may be issued to hunt hogs in CA, but the article seems to say that hunters aren't able to keep them in check. In fact, the hunters haven't been given a chance to go into the Santa Ana River, even if it is just with archery tackle. It would be great if we were able to get in there.

Almost everyone in that area is afraid of hunters because they fear what could happen if it were opened publicly to hunters. There are many people who hike, ride horses and fish down there so a firearm (according to local ordinances) is out of the question. They think hunters are going to go into the river bottom with guns a-blazin' to kill the hogs. I will not disagree, their fears are warranted, but they fail to understand that we want to eat the hogs, not just slay them for personal enjoyment. I propose we meet in the middle - Why not have a opportunity drawing for an archery pig tag (raffles are illegal in California) specific to the Santa Ana River Basin? Also offer up certain time frames and areas where said archers can be in there to reduce the chance of an accident. Along with that, offer up some access points and parking for the hunters to get in and out without being harassed. At present that is nearly impossible, as you may get harassed even if you just want to take photos. Most of the land is private and/or fenced off. If this Hidden Valley Nature Center (in the article) is having such an issue, maybe they would provide certain opportunities for archers. Yeah, I know, I doubt that, too. 

Sure, I am daydreaming about this and from time to time think it could actually happen. When I wake up and snap out of it I then highly doubt it, but wouldn't it be fun to get into an area like this with archery tackle? It would be awesome! Especially an area that is as untouched as this one.

What can you offer up as a reasonable solution to both areas? Both the Cleveland National Forest and the Santa Ana River Basin. Should the U.S. Forest Service be allowed to do it? Should something be opened up to reduce the population near Redlands, CA? I am very interested in what others have to say on this. I know how a few of you will answer because we have discussed this topic before, but it has reared its ugly head again and I want to hear opinons. I still think that charging to hunt hogs is BS and that they should be free to kill at any time, day or night. That is just my opinion, but it's mine and I plan to express it. I know our government needs to increase monies to help balance the budget, but charging for pig tags are a bit much for something so hard to kill anyway.

I am ever-so-slowly stepping down off my soapbox now, but I reserve the right to jump back on and squeal at any time.


  1. Al, very insightful article. I too was interest in the perceived need for controlling the population of feral hogs in California. I was so interested that I called the Cleveland National Forest and was referred to Pete Gomben (the Environmental consultant) heading up the project.

    I shared with Pete my background in Forestry and Wildlife biology; as well as, management strategies for feral hogs in Texas, Arkansas, and Florida where I've lived and hunted before. I share with Pete that I'd help anyway I could if the need was a real need.

    Pete appeared to be very open to suggestions on research from other states to which I mentioned a few. Not sure where they will go with it, but if true management of a feral population is to occur (if the need truly exists in California) then removing the Tag Fee should be the beginning.

    California is the first state I've lived in where a fee is required to kill a domesticated animal. Feral pigs are domesticated animals. It is my suggestion that if the population is truly at a stage of concern then removing the tag free all together and allowing year round hunting should be up for consideration.

    I am still waiting to hear back from Pete Gomben on next steps.

    We shall see...

    Pastor Kerry
    Chaplain to the Outdoorsmen

  2. Presume you don't have indegineous population we have a shoot on site policy here on pig and muntjac because of damage to environment Know of one 350lb boar shot beside a primary school Just imagine what a boar could do to some poor kid Personally I can't stand people who muck with nature They're generally the very people who give off about us hunters and anglers

  3. I have a friend in the forestry service in San Diego, and he keeps me up on the goings on of the higher ups & hog news in the area. But even with all that & my travels in around the polomar mnt. Area hunting turkeys, I have yet to see a pig or sign. Any area I beloved to be containing hogs is either private property on clearly posted NO HUNTING.