Feral pigs are biological time bombs. Can California stem their ‘exponential’ damage?

THE LOS ANGELES TIMES:

Dana Page is no cold-blooded killer. She loves animals, sunshine and public lands.

But Page says “depredation” must be part of the toolkit to prevent wild pigs from ripping up Santa Clara County’s parks, tearing up lawns, fouling rivers and reservoirs, and killing native fauna such as red-legged frogs and California tiger salamanders.

“It’s hard to sit back and watch the destruction,” said Page, natural resource program coordinator for Santa Clara County Parks.

California’s feral pig population has become a monumental headache for government land managers, farmers, homeowners, conservation biologists and water district officials. But there is no clear way to ease the pain. Making it easier for hunters to kill pigs is a dubious proposition. Going after their food sources would cut a wide swath through California’s fauna and flora. Short of culling their numbers with a full-scale military operation, the porcine pests will continue to do damage.

Feral pigs are like roving rototillers, using their snouts and hooves to unearth dirt-dwelling insect larvae and eat acorns, invertebrates, eggs, small mammals and plants. Their feeding patterns not only cause enormous ecological damage, but the end product — their poop — poses an even further threat. These generously sized mammals — adults range from 150 to 500 pounds — are known to spread more than 30 infectious diseases, 20 of which can be transmitted to humans, including leptospirosis, toxoplasmosis and tularemia.

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