Wild hogs invade Hogback Mountain

Published 11:45 am Friday, July 22, 2011

Feral pigs in the Hogback Mountain Road area of Tryon. The animals are reportedly causing extensive damage to property. (photo by Colleen Carey)

New trapping law takes effect Oct. 1
A herd of feral pigs has been destroying properties on Hogback Mountain Road in the Tryon area, and homeowners are asking how to get rid of the animals.
One Hogback Mountain resident, Colleen Carey, has taken pictures and video of a herd of 35 to 40 hogs on her property. She said they are tearing up her backyard.
The feral pigs, which can reach 5 feet in length and can weigh more than 300 pounds, have been seen in the Hogback Mountain Road area since early July.
Carey is not the only one who has been victim to the feral pigs, otherwise known as wild hogs, wild boar or swine.
Other residents have said the herd has been “ravaging” upper Carolina Drive, tearing up yards  as the hogs look for insects, nuts and bulbs.
“They’ve eaten all my peaches, they’ve torn up my backyard looking for roots and food,” Carey said. “We just want to know what to do to get rid of them.”
The answers do not look hopeful, according to Carey. She has researched the issue and spoken with the N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission.
According to her research, private property owners can shoot and kill wild feral on their property if they are causing damage anytime. But for those who don’t want to kill them, the alternative is to trap and relocate them.
However, the rules on trapping and hunting feral pigs will change on Oct. 1, 2011.
A new law was enacted in an effort to deter people from trapping and relocating feral pigs to other areas.
The new law requires that hunting of feral swine be done only by hunters who have a valid hunting license and who are wearing orange. The law also prohibits the transport of live hogs unless the animal has a form of identification approved by the state veterinarian and prohibits the removal of live feral hogs from traps. Those who fail to obtain identification before transporting hogs, as required, are subject to a civil penalty of up to $5,000 for each hog.
“The new law was enacted in part to address the proliferation of feral swine across the landscape of North Carolina,” states House Bill 432. “Feral swine are not native to North Carolina and pose threats to commercial hog farming operations and native wildlife through disease transmission and habitat destruction.”
Polk County Wildlife Officer Toby Jenkins said the nuisance of feral pigs in this area has been caused by people from other areas trapping them and releasing them here (see the box on page 5 for historical and other information about feral pigs).
“We were having a lot of people trap these in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama and transport them here and release them,” said Jenkins. “We had no law on such practices. Now it’s a very serious penalty, $5,000 for anyone trapping/releasing and transporting these live feral pigs.”
Jenkins said after Oct. 1, night and Sunday hunting will not be allowed unless the hunter is using a bow and arrow or crossbow.
Landowners who have damage to their property, however, may shoot the pigs causing the damage, Jenkins said.
Jenkins said there was a problem recently involving a man who was charging a local golf course to trap the pigs and move them. He charged a hefty fee for each pig and then took them on top of the mountain above the golf course and released them, so the pigs would return. Jenkins said that problem was eliminated and the new law should take care of similar cases in the future.
“This new law will take care of those relocating pigs here to North Carolina when they are caught,” Jenkins said. “This should help reduce the numbers (of feral pigs). The pigs can cause a lot of damage and usually cover several miles in a day. They travel with the food sources and may be in Tryon one day and in the Greenville watershed the next day.”
Feral pigs do carry dangerous diseases, including brucellosis, according to the N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission. The diseases can infect people if they come in contact, through their eyes, nose, mouth or a cut in the skin, with blood, fluid or tissues from an infected wild hog. People can also become sick after eating improperly cooked meat of a feral pig.
“Several people hunt these pigs on a regular basis and use them for food. However, they do carry many diseases and some are serious,” said Jenkins.  “Feral swine are not vaccinated like domestic swine and must be cooked properly to avoid disease transmission. “
Other than shooting the feral pigs, placing an appropriate fence around the property is one of the only other options for property owners. There are no effective poisons to eliminate wild boar.

About feral pigs
History in Western North Carolina
In 1908 the Whiting Manufacturing Company bought a large tract of land in the Snowbird Mountains in Graham County, N.C. Within this tract was a mountain known as Hooper’s Bald. Mr. George Gordon Moore, an American advisor for the company, was allowed to establish a game reserve on company land on Hooper’s Bald around 1909.
In 1911, a 500 to 600-acre hog lot was constructed, with a split rail fence nine rails high. In April 1912, a shipment of 14 European wild hogs, including 11 sows and 3 boars, arrived and was released in the lot. They each weighed approximately 60 to 75 pounds. They were purchased from an agent in Berlin, Germany, who claimed that they came from the Ural Mountains of Russia. The hogs arrived in Murphy by train and were hauled to Hooper’s Bald by ox-drawn wagon. One sow died en route to Hooper’s Bald.
From the beginning the lot was not hog proof, and apparently some of the hogs escaped and returned at will. The majority remained in the lot for eight to 10 years and increased in numbers.
In the early 1920s, when the lot contained approximately 60 to 100 hogs, a hunt with dogs was conducted. Only two hogs were killed, but many escaped the lot during the hunt.
The escapees became established in the surrounding mountain terrain of Graham County, N.C., and Monroe County, Tenn. Today Hooper’s Bald is owned by the U.S. Forest Service and is a part of the Nantahala National Forest.
The boar thrived in Graham County and spread into other counties, as well as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
In 1979, the boar was given the status of game animal by the N.C. legislature. The first open season was held in the Cherokee National Forest in 1936 and in the Nantahala National Forest in 1937 (Frome 1966).
The majority (59 percent) of hunter-harvested boars are considered adults, 30 weeks old or older. People who rear wild hogs report animals living as long as 12 years in captivity.
Male wild boars reach sexual maturity at approximately nine months of age and females as young as seven months. The female usually produces one litter of one to 10 piglets (average 4.8) each year, with a gestation period of approximately 115 days. Although wild hogs have the potential to produce two litters a year, there is no evidence that a wild sow has produced more than one surviving litter per year. The sex ratio at birth is approximately 50/50.
At birth the piglets are light brown with longitudinal brown and black stripes, similar to the stripes on chipmunks. The reproductive rate is highly dependent on good mast crops, especially acorns.
– source: www.ncwildlife.com

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