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Sonoma County's wild pigs a spreading problem

  • Wild pigs are seen trapped by hunt master with Landpaths, Dave Barry, in the hills west of Healdsburg on Wednesday, December 4, 2013. The pigs have become a major scourge for farm fields, vineyards and storage areas in Sonoma County as they animals eat indiscriminately and have a surging population. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

Besides the coyote, what would you guess is the most problematic type of wildlife in California?

Mountain lions? Hawks? Bears? Landscape-munching, car-wrecking deer?

Wrong. Try pigs.

Wild Pigs In Sonoma County

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"They are a major problem in the county," Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner Tony Linegar said. "We deal a lot in agriculture with problem pig cases."

In 2012, farmers and landowners asked for help from the commissioner's two animal control agents almost 900 times: Coyotes accounted for 736 calls. Pigs came in second with 80 calls, more than twice the number of calls for all other animals combined, including mountain lions, bears, raccoons, and skunks.

The problem with pigs is that they breed prolifically, producing two or three large litters per year, so they can spread across the landscape exponentially. Even worse, they will eat nearly anything they can get their mouths on, from grubs, weeds, and acorns all the way up to small mammals, birds and amphibians.

The pigs, known technically as "feral swine," are the rough and tumble descendants of European and Asian pigs brought to the New World in waves, starting with the earliest Spanish explorers, right up to today's modern pig farmers. Some animals were released deliberately on the land, often for hunting purposes, and others escaped from farms.

Until the 1950s, wild pigs were found only in a few coastal counties in California, but now they have spread to nearly all parts of the state, excepting the driest deserts and coldest mountaintops.

In the East Bay, news outlets reported in September that a herd, known as a "sounder," of at least 20 pigs had devastated yards throughout the suburban city of San Ramon. In San Jose, meanwhile, the problem has become so great that the city council there passed an emergency ordinance in November allowing property owners to shoot the pests inside city limits.

Federal wildlife officials alone report killing more than 32,500 feral pigs in 28 states in 2012, demonstrating that pigs are both common and widespread nationwide.


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