You wouldn’t think of hogs as an invasive species, would you? But the wild version of those animals is just that, according to New York state.
The State Department of Environmental Conservation convinced the State Senate and Assembly this year to pass a law that prohibits the importation and possession of the Eurasian boar, also called feral swine.
The problem is that the prolific creatures can cause havoc to the environment by their sheer numbers. They compete with native wildlife, munching up plants and destroying natural landscape. They also can carry diseases that can be passed to humans.
The “hogs gone wild” have already caused serious problems in Florida, Texas and Georgia, and they have established breeding colonies in Tioga, Cortland and Onondaga counties of New York.
The creatures have stirred up trouble here in the North Country, too. In June 2012, the Press-Republican reported on state efforts to control a population of feral hogs that was tearing up territory in the Town of Peru.
At the time, we reported that DEC first became aware of the local problem a few years previous when a feral hog was killed by a car on Bear Swamp Road. Their impact started being felt, more and more, by area farmers. Then, in 2011, landowners discovered about 18 feral swine feeding in a cornfield one night.
That started DEC on a mission to trap as many of the hogs as possible — an effort that wound up costing DEC and a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture $68,000, according to information provided by Sen. Betty Little’s office. The state set large traps and wound up removing 35 of the animals from Clinton County.
DEC is working with other agencies on plans to keep people from releasing the animals into the wild and eradicating those that are already there. No time can be wasted; the sows produce several litters a year, delivering four to six piglets at a time.
It is legal for hunters to shoot the animals year-round, an indication of just how strongly the state sees them as an invasive species.
The new law, which is awaiting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature, would immediately ban importation, breeding or release of the Eurasion boar. Starting Sept. 1, 2015, it would be illegal to possess, sell, distribute and transport the animal.
DEC sees these boars as a significant threat to the natural environment of New York state. Though they don’t fit the typical model of invasive species — usually a fast-growing plant or nuisance clam or fish — they nonetheless have to be taken seriously as a dangerous element.
We hope their eradication is accomplished humanely — and effectively.