VALLEY FALLS, N.Y. – Wildlife officials in New York may ban captive boar hunts as they try to curb a growing feral hog population before it gets as bad as it is in Southern states, where roaming droves have devastated crops and wildlife habitat with their rooting, wallowing and voracious foraging.
Feral swine are breeding in three counties in central New York, according to a federal study done last year with funding from New York’s Invasive Species Council. The wild population statewide is likely in the hundreds, said Gordon Batcheller, head of the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Bureau of Wildlife.
Damage becomes more noticeable when the population reaches the thousands and the hogs stake out home territories rather than widely wandering.
Eurasian wild boars have become popular on private hunting ranches throughout the U.S. in recent years as an addition to deer and elk. Ranch owners deny they’re the source of the free-roaming pigs, but Patrick Rusz, director of wildlife programs for the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy, said the animals started showing up in the wild soon after hunting preserves began importing them.
“We’re not talking about Porky Pig getting loose from the farm,” Rusz said. “These are Russian wild boars. Those animals are Houdini-like escape artists and they breed readily in the wild.”