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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : latest news : local August 1, 2014


5/15/2012 2:15:00 PM
March of the Feral Pigs toward the Verde Valley
Four-legged disaster headed to a watershed near you
Courtesy USDA
Feral pigs are walking, rooting and wallowing ecological disasters that cause nearly $1 billion year in damage nationwide. They are also a threat to commercial agriculture because of their ability to spread diseases.
Courtesy USDA
Feral pigs are walking, rooting and wallowing ecological disasters that cause nearly $1 billion year in damage nationwide. They are also a threat to commercial agriculture because of their ability to spread diseases.
Courtesy USDA
This map from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows the steady progression of feral pig populations across the country. The herd now roaming south of Camp Verde began shortly after this map was drawn.
Courtesy USDA
This map from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows the steady progression of feral pig populations across the country. The herd now roaming south of Camp Verde began shortly after this map was drawn.

CAMP VERDE - Three months. Three weeks. Three days.

Any child in 4H or FFA can probably recite the gestation period for a pig. They can also tell you that the average litter runs between 4 and 12 piglets, depending on the sow's age.

Given the fact a sow can reach sexual maturity in six months, you don't have to be a math major or future farmer to see it doesn't take long to go from one breeding pair to dozens of pigs.



Hog dogging

Sometime in fall 2004 a semi tractor-trailer rolled up to a stock pen at the EZ Ranch outside of Cordes Lakes and offloaded an unspecified number of wild Russian hogs, skimmed off the plains of West Texas.

The pigs were brought to Arizona for what the ranchers called a training session for their hunting dogs, and what animal rights activists and law enforcement authorities contended was a brutal spectator sport called "hog dogging."

Following the ranchers' arrest for animal cruelty, Yavapai County sheriff's deputies rounded up 12 adult pitbulls, five puppies and 32 wild Russian hogs.

The ranchers, who claimed none of the hogs was hurt during the "hog dogging" event, later accused authorities of releasing 12 of their hogs into the wild. Officials with the state, who were also present during the raid, said only one evaded capture.

Whatever the case, it seems likely at least one breeding pair found their way onto the landscape, or a lone boar found a domesticated date.



On the march

Feral pigs have been a way of life in the Southeast for decades. Historically they were found in the Carolinas, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, California and Texas.

Today they can be found in 33 states, as far north as Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Oregon.

One of the states hardest hit in recent years is New Mexico, where 40 years ago they were never seen.

A February article in the Southwest Farm Press reports that feral pigs are now creating an environmental disaster for New Mexico's agricultural industry and wildlife.

Although no population estimates have been made, the article quotes Alan May of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, saying that feral pigs have spread from just two counties in southeastern New Mexico to 17 in "an alarmingly short period."

Because New Mexico is an arid southwest state, they serve as a model of what could come to pass in Arizona.



The Dugas herd

There is now a herd of wild pigs that ranges from south of Camp Verde to just north of Phoenix. Wildlife biologists now know them as the Dugas herd.

An unconfirmed report from two months ago says a rancher encountered feral pigs behind Squaw Peak and a confirmed report states that a feral sow and four piglets were removed from an elementary school near Black Canyon City last fall.

"It's my gut feeling that those pigs came from the incident in 2004," says state Veterinarian Perry Durham. "We probably missed some of those, as you can appreciate what the country is like up there trying to find a pig. And after six or eight years we have another bunch of them running around,"

They aren't Arizona's only feral pig population.

According to David Bergman, state director of Wildlife Services for the USDA, there are feral pigs on the Arizona strip north of the Grand Canyon, in the White Mountains and on the San Pedro River.

"The largest population we have around here is on the Havasu National Wildlife refuge along the Colorado River. We know it's over 100 pigs and growing," says Bergman.



Ecological disaster

What little government oversight there is for feral pigs comes from the USDA. Pigs are, feral or otherwise, still regarded as farm animals.

They estimate the animals cause $800 million a year in damage. They spread disease to domesticated swine including brucellosis, bovine tuberculosis and pseudorabies, a disease the ones captured in 2004 tested positive for.

Environmentally they can decimate some native plant species and are serious competition for wildlife where limited resources are available. Their rooting and wallowing activities cause erosion along stream banks.

And when encountered in the wild they can be extremely aggressive.

"They are considered a huge ecological disaster nationwide. They are omnivores that eat just about anything and what they don't eat they dig up," says Jeff Debworth, wildlife manager for Arizona Game and Fish,



Coyote of the pig world

Feral pigs have a high mortality rate, according Durham. Nevertheless, they can double in population every 4 to 6 months.

"Like every other species out here, if you got enough food and water, then the next thing on the list is reproduction. It's pretty simple. They go out there. They run into other pigs. They make bacon and, hey, they keep right on going," says Durham.

Bergman, whose agency has the most contact with the feral pig population, says he has no idea how many are running loose in the state.

"We kill 30 every year, 15 in the spring and 15 in the fall to monitor diseases. But we don't manage them otherwise," says Bergman.

As for Arizona's future with what appears to be the coyote of the pig world, Bergman says it's only a matter of time before they come to a watershed near you.

"What we have going for us is we don't have a lot of water sources," says Bergman. "But we know the population near Dugas has followed the Agua Fria all the way to Black Canyon City.

"They could very well find their way to the Verde River some day. They are spreading statewide, just at a slower rate than elsewhere."


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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, May 25, 2012
Article comment by: Rick Rick

Sentient beings lol......
I am a hog killer, notice I didn't say hunter.... I kill sometimes 100s per year. These things are like giant destructive rats. Hunting doesn't control them, killing as many as you can will keep them away.
Hog control is no place for a sportsman.

Yes you must do it humanely as possible, and give away as much meat as you reasonably can. But to get any kinda controll over them.... You have to feed the coyotes and buzzards.


Posted: Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Article comment by: Zen Mocarski

I see a number of comments mentioning Game and Fish. Understand, please, feral pigs are not considered wildlife, therefore do not fall under the Department's purview.

Posted: Sunday, May 20, 2012
Article comment by: Slater Slater

I know that.DUH Read my posts and you'll see I'm not only synical I'm mostly sarcastic.

Posted: Saturday, May 19, 2012
Article comment by: joe makiba

i haul semiloads of alfalfa from western oklahoma to neumorus dairys all over texas ! between vernon tx and seymore tx around lake kemp on hwy 283 there thousands of them ! about 3 yrs ago i was way overweight and runnin late ,, grossin out @ about 95,000 and runnin 85 mph around midnight when they are all out rootin and tearin and all of a suddenly !! WHAM !!. I VAPORIZED one of them mean ol beasts of the night !! man it was nasty !that weekend i had all the neighborhood dogs hangin out around my traktor and dropdeck trailer ! whww ee ! there was blood all the way back on the trailer tag ! about 70 feet behind the big masher grill deer guard on the front bumper that paid for itself that night lol ! i did my part that night and near miss all the time ! they are like 250 lb giant rats that tear up crops and everything else they can reach ! any breakdowns i wait till daylight to repair in that part of texas ! yikes !

Posted: Saturday, May 19, 2012
Article comment by: Frank Castillo

This article is talking about "real" pigs not javelina, which are pig-like, but not true pigs. Also, G&F (or any other govt agencies) did not transplant javelina into Arizona. True, javelina are not native, but have migrated and expanded their range naturally. Pigs need a pretty constant (persistant) supply of water. They need mud to wallow.
They are not managed by Game & Fish. No hunting license needed, no bag limits. Have fun finding them and be safe!


Posted: Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Article comment by: Are

I live in the Verde Village and we routinely have a herd of ten to twenty or so pigs coming around diggin up everything and ruining landscaping, etc. They show no fear of humans. So, are these wild pigs, which we usually call javalinas, different from the feral pigs discussed in the article? I'm curious to know. Anybody know for sure?

Posted: Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Article comment by: Slater doesn't have Alektorophobia?

Hey Slater,

You are now ALLOWED 2O chickens in Verde Village 3.

The County Supervisors decided to allow as many as they allow in the CITY of Phoenix!

Your are welcome!


Posted: Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Article comment by: Nora Morse

Anyone for a fourth of July pig roast to raise money for our brave veterans?

Posted: Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Article comment by: Slater Slater

Where can I get a couple dozen.I need them
with the 30 chickens I'm gonna raise in village
3 in cottonwood.
After all I have a building lot out there.


Posted: Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Article comment by: The Goatherder

Oh you mean actual pigs. For a minute there I thought this was another article about the state legislature. My bad.

Posted: Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Article comment by: Ryan Jensen

@ Sentient Beings

I donít know lady...the pig facing the camera in the picture looks guilty of something to me.


Posted: Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Article comment by: M J

Re: Sentient Beings 14 May

HaHa your right, they are sentient beings! Why Mr Orwell even wrote a book about them!


Posted: Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Article comment by: Where is Sarah Palin???

Palin bragged that she liked shooting wolves from helicopters....maybe we can hire her to shoot these piggys! I knew she'd be good for something some day!

Posted: Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Article comment by: Gaia Gurl

This WHOLE situation is HIGHLY suspect.

There are family farmer's who raise these kinds of pigs in MICHIGAN, it is their business and the DNR is coming on their farms . . . under threat of ARREST and FELONY charges.

"Kennedy accuses the pork industry of colluding being in collusion with the DNR in an effort to try to close small-operation hog farms and game preserves, an accusation the Michigan Pork Producers Association denies."

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20120424/METRO/204240365#ixzz1uxXNXyap

So now WE have feral pigs and people LINING UP at food banks. Why has GAME and FISH not just DECLARED OPEN SEASON?

Sentient Beings,

"You can go buy bacon and pork at Fry's or Safeway. It's not like you need to shoot them to feed your family."

REALLY? Where do you think the bacon at Fry's comes FROM? You would RATHER have people buy INHUMANE factory farmed, drug laden meat than HUNT organic free range MEAT? Look around, people DO need to FEED their families . . .

THIS is a no BRAINER!

Even for an 'EARTH WOMAN' as I have been called by the zombie victims . . . LOL





Posted: Monday, May 14, 2012
Article comment by: Free Game

No license needed ! No limit ! Don't understand why Game and Fish doesn't fly and shoot to erradicate these feral hogs? Maybe they have future plans for another game animal to make some money on ? After all thats what they did with the Javelina. They weren't native to North Central Az either untill the Game and Fish introduced them up here! Get a free hog while you can !


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