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Pigs, Pigs and More Pigs...

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Spring 2000

Pigs, Pigs and More Pigs...
Feral Pigs Invade the Santa Cruz Mountains


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. feral pigHe 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 easily.

Working Regionally

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. feral pig 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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