Pesky pigs pose problem

MCT photo: Rodger Mallsion

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Jimmy Tivis uses his gun to deal with feral pigs. The alfalfa and wheat farmer, who owns 800 acres in Floyd, spots the animals roaming across his land in groups of eight to 10.

“I kill them every time I see them,” Tivis said, not coldy, but as a matter of fact.

For many landowners who began spotting bronze-colored wild pigs about three years ago, peace isn’t an option.

The animals are destructive, disease-ridden and growing in number.

“They are all over the place,” New Mexico Department of Game and Fish spokesperson Mark Madsen said.

The pigs can be found along the Pecos River, and in Carlsbad, Elida, Floyd, Fort Sumner and Roswell, according to New Mexico Game and Fish officials. No sightings in or around Clovis have been reported to Game and Fish, but the animals are prolific, officials said.

The Department doesn’t consider feral pigs a game species. New Mexico Game and Fish officials don’t regulate the animals or know how many exist in the state, and hunting the pigs is legal.

“Any resident can go out and shoot one — or two or three or 20,” New Mexico Game and Fish spokesperson Dan Williams said.

Wild pigs are not native to the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Swine were introduced by a Spanish explorer in 1539.

The feral swine population today is a combination of domestic, escaped or neglected domestic swine and Eurasian wild boars, an Inspection Service publication reads. Often, feral pigs cannot be distinguished from domestic swine.

In New Mexico, off-season hunters who intentionally released pigs also contributed to the population boom, according to Madsen.

Free-roaming populations of wild pigs exist in 39 states, according to the Inspection Service, whose records show that by 2004 the animals had been reported in Roosevelt and Curry counties. Experts estimate more than 4 million feral pigs live in the United States, with the densest populations in California, Florida, Hawaii and Texas.

In October 2006, federal investigators blamed a spinach E.coli outbreak on feral pigs. The animals also carry swine diseases such as swine brucellosis and African swine fever.

For farmers, wild pigs pose a serious threat.

Peanut farmers in Roosevelt County have had acres of peanuts ruined by the pigs, who root up food with their snouts, farmers said.

Frieda Miller of Roosevelt County said the pigs caused thousands of dollars of damage to her family’s peanut crop about eight years ago. She and her husband hired a hunter from Texas to stalk the animals from a helicopter.

“They can do a lot of damage in just one night,” said Kendell Buzard, the son of a peanut farmer of Roosevelt County, who chased pigs from his father’s land last winter.

He and friends shot about 30 of the animals, he said.

“They are opportunists — they eat anything,” Madsen said.

“They can do severe damage to crops and habitats in general,” he said.

In Floyd, the pigs also wander across Butch Vidlar’s land. They haven’t touched his crops, yet.

“Everybody is complaining about them. It’s getting to be a big item,” Vidlar said.

“We need to eradicate them. They don’t need to be in the country,” he said.