Sunday, January 6, 2013

Game Commission Looking To Ban Wild Boar

By Bob Frye, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is taking aim at wild boars.

The agency is preparing to move forward with regulations that would remove protection from the animals statewide and, most notably, ban their importation, possession and release into the wild. If approved by the board, the importation of hogs would be banned in July of 2013, and possession of them in July of 2014.

“This is major. There will be no more feral swine canned hunts in Pennsylvania,” said commissioner Jay Delaney of Luzerne County.

Commission executive director Carl Roe proposed that very idea this past spring in an executive order. It went out for public comment and generated quite a bit, most of it from the owners of hunting preserves who said boars are an important commodity.

Commission staff argued that those concerns don‘t outweigh the risk boars present, though.
“Feral swine are not native to Pennsylvania and present many problems to wildlife and people,” reads the commission‘s official position statement on hogs. “They can cause tremendous damage to habitat and property, and pose an ever-present threat to wildlife and the biosecurity of the state‘s multi-million-dollar pork industry. Pennsylvania would be a better place without these swine, and the Game Commission is committed to their eradication.”
Other states have struggled with wild hogs, which can reach weights in the hundreds of pounds. Texas, for example, is home to an estimated 2.6 million of them, and a 2004 survey said they cause $52 million in agricultural damage annually.

Wild hogs – escapees from preserves – have been found in a number of counties across Pennsylvania. The Game Commission wants to keep them from getting established or spreading, which is why the regulations are being proposed, Roe said.

Defining what is a wild board versus a feral swine or a pig “will become the challenge, to be very honest with you,” he added, given that the commission has jurisdiction over the former, the state Department of Agriculture jurisdiction over the latter. But he‘s hoping common sense will come into play.

“Does it look like a domestic pig and is it behind a fence, or does it look like what‘s been roaming the countryside the last couple of years, with hair and tusks? It‘s the reasonable-person approach,” Roe said.

The state is home to about 20 to 30 preserves that offer hog hunts, said Cal DuBrock, director of the commission‘s bureau of wildlife management.

Why they are a threat

So what‘s the problem with having wild boars roaming the landscape? A look at what “feral swine” are capable of, according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.

• They eat hard mast (acorns and other nuts) and directly compete with deer, bear, turkey, squirrel and waterfowl for food.
• They consume the nests and eggs of ground nesting birds and reptiles.
• They will kill and eat fawns and young domestic livestock.
• They will eat almost any agricultural crop as well as tree seeds and seedlings.
• Their rooting and wallowing habits destroy crops and native vegetation, cause erosion and negatively affect water quality.
• They have razor-sharp tusks and can be aggressive toward humans and their pets.
• They carry and can transmit several serious diseases including swine brucellosis, E. coli, trichinosis, and pseudorabies to livestock and /or humans. Some of these diseases, if introduced to domestic swine, can decimate the pork industry.

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