The Trail Companion
Pigs, Pigs and More Pigs...
Feral Pigs Invade the Santa Cruz
Pigs in the State Parks
Pig damage on California State Parks lands has
been fairly limited so far, although every park in
the Santa Cruz District has pigs living in or passing
through their lands and populations are booming.
Damage is less visible in the heavily forested parks
than in open grassland. Rooting pigs regularly tear
up Slate Creek Trail in Portola Redwoods State Park,
as well as some of the trails in the lower reaches of
Castle Rock State Park.
George Gray, District
Ecologist for the Santa Cruz District, said that pig
control in the State Parks has been on a local scale
so far. He
pointed out that the State Parks are not isolated
islands. In Santa Cruz County, State Parks
constitutes only a small portion of pig habitat, with
another small percentage under other public control,
and with the vast majority under private ownership.
Since pigs can roam many miles in a single night,
they tend to be transient on State Park lands, rather
than always present; that mobility makes estimating
numbers difficult. Holly Heineman, Portola Redwoods
State Park Ranger, reported often seeing a group of
five that comes and goes near her ranger residence
near the park entrance. Gray estimated that as many
as forty pigs range across Wilder Ranch State Park,
with its long, narrow boundaries.
State Parks personnel
have trapped and shot pigs since they first appeared
in the parks, but each pig is likely to involve an
entire day's work because the State Dept. of Fish and
Game has very strict guidelines when it comes to pigs
- and that becomes a very expensive way of
controlling the animals given the rate at which they
reproduce. As a first step toward greater control on
State Park lands, the District is working a
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Fish and Game
to allow trapping and shooting pigs on a
District-wide basis so that rangers and maintenance
workers in each park can deal with the pigs more
Even a larger scale effort will not prevent not
prevent pigs from continuing to breed in neighboring
lands, of course. Currently, a major barrier to any
widespread control is that pigs are classed as game
animals; they can be legally introduced, moved and
harbored on any private land. Gray compared the very
mobile and prolific animals to Medflies - if your
neighbor has pigs, you'd better get used to having
pigs, too. The
District would like to introduce legislation to
establish a Pig Eradication Zone in the Santa Cruz
Mountains, locally taking pigs off the list of game
animals. They believe that only through such a
regional effort involving all landowners will they
move toward effectively controlling pigs.
In the absence of a
regional program, a number of landowners in the South
Skyline Region have independently obtained a
depredation permit from the CA Dept. of Fish &
Game, but are not coordinating their efforts with
MROSD or with State Parks.
The effectiveness of
the various efforts won't be known for years. Jodi
Isaacs expressed a hope that some form of
contraception could be used to slow or reverse the
tremendous growth of pig populations; perhaps MROSD
would explore such an option in future and be on the
cutting edge of pig control. But for now and until an
appropriate regional solution and combined
humanitarian effort can be implemented for wild pig
control, be on the lookout for beasts roaming trails
and open land across the Bay Area.
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