Thursday, June 2, 2011
Federal officials are preparing to mobilize against San Diego's population of wild pigs, which they see as a threat to public health and the area's fragile ecosystem.
The animals are believed to be the offspring of a small herd of 30 to 40 domestically raised Russian pigs released in 2006 on an eastern San Diego County Indian reservation in hopes of attracting business from hunters, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported on its website Wednesday.
The U.S. Forest Service estimates there are now 200 to 300 of the feral pigs in the county. Letting hunters go after the pigs has failed to control their growing numbers, so now the forest service and other federal agencies plan to get involved.
"Our focus has to be what we can do at this point to control the effect they are having now," said Joan Friedlander, a supervising ranger at the Cleveland National Forest. "But it also has to be about controlling the population, keeping it low and at a threshold so it's not growing exponentially and beyond what we can handle."
Their effort will involve traps, federal hunters with guns and dogs and even shooting from helicopters. Pigs that are trapped will be euthanized and animal carcasses will be disposed of according to state and local statute, officials said.
The public comment period on the swine control program began Saturday and will continue until June 26. Friedlander said officials did not have a budget for the program, but acknowledged that it could be costly.
"It won't be inexpensive," he said. "It will be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Hunter Gen Murofushi said he thought the federal plan was misguided and a waste of money. He said hunters like him could eventually get the job done - while paying for the privilege - and that the government was overestimating the amount of damage done by the pigs.
"I think people are making more of a big deal than they actually need to, but we'll see what happens," he said, adding: "I'll continue chasing them with my dogs."