Feral Pigs

So I’m looking at a Newsweek article on feral hogs.  One of the neat things it included was this chart:

I’m not really sure about invasive wild pigs, but I notice a 0.6 to 0.8 probability of them coming into Lincoln County.  I don’t know if that’s per year, or what – but the maps motivate speculation.  Obviously, the left coast and the south are more in keeping with a wild pig invasion – but if we are getting some warming in the climate, we may get some wild pigs.

It’s kind of like ‘bucket biology’ – the term I’ve heard as an explanation for how perch, sunfish, and pike made it into our local lakes (I’ve seen small perch in the pond, and I’m not sure that the sticky eggs aren’t transported on bird legs – but that explanation only explains the last leg of the trip).  But the story behind the feral pig population explosion is similar:

“In the pre-cable years, there was occasionally a hunting show on TV. In the multi-channel era, those morphed into entire hunting channels that needed enough content to fill 24 hours every day. “And they started to show pig hunting,” Ditchkoff says. “And people said, ‘Boy, I’d like to try that.’ And pretty quickly they realized they didn’t have to go where the pigs were—they could track them, transport them, and release them close to where they lived. And that’s what led to this massive range expansion.”

The idea that people were trundling pigs all over the country might sound far-fetched, and it would have been illegal. But several lines of evidence make it plausible. Genetic studies by multiple research teams show that characteristics possessed by wild pigs in one place abruptly appear in pigs hundreds or thousands of miles away; in one 2015 study, a group of feral hogs in California possessed mitochondrial DNA sequences that otherwise had been found only in Kentucky. Then there’s the reality of how rapidly pigs appeared in new places. USDA research estimates that, on their own, hog populations will expand their range by about 4 to 8 miles per year. But Mayer jokes darkly that they have relocated at “about 70 miles per hour—which is the speed of the pickups taking them down the highway.”

I’m not anticipating an invasion of feral hogs here in Trego – but, if we are living through global warming, we may have a more inviting climate for them.  I’m remembering the stories I heard from Walt Ritter when I was young – since Walt stuttered, his stepfather thought school was wasted on him.  He spent his time with a shovel, digging drainage ditches.  Later, with a bit of frost, he was hired out as a cook’s helper for a logging camp.  His story was that one of the loggers had died, and the body was covered and left outside in the cold until a wagon would come and take the departed to town.  Part of Walt’s job had been to feed the cookshack slops to the pig – but he found that the pig had eaten most of the logger.  Walt claimed the experience took him off bacon for quite a while – and he insisted that digging ditches and working in the logging camp didn’t help his stuttering a bit.

Editors note: this is, you may note, entirely ignoring the potential influx of feral hogs from Canada which is a potentially far nearer source population. More on that later.

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