Florida’s feral hogs: a pervasive pest – but a profitable one for some

The Guardian
by Jordan Blumetti –

Florida’s feral hogs: a pervasive pest – but a profitable one for some
The US’s most destructive invasive species numbers in the millions, clashing with a growing human population and boosting a lucrative hunting industry –

Dimas “Pompi” Rodriguez is standing in his front yard before dawn, his neck shielded from a bitter wind by the collar of his canvas jacket. He splits a cigarillo lengthwise and empties the guts on to his filthy swamp boots.

“We gonna catch some hogs today,” he says. “When it’s cold, they come out of the swamp.”

He rolls a joint with the cigarillo shell on the door of his mailbox and grins at the finished product. A tallish, broad-shouldered guy, Pompi hunts wild hogs for a living, which are known in Florida as a kind of quotidian foe. “We hunt every day – morning, night, it doesn’t matter,” he says.

Driving through a wooded retirement burg 30 miles south of Orlando, he makes a sharp turn off-road on to a dirt trail, and parks on a small mound in view of a cypress dome. He points out a series of depressions in the earth. “Those are hog wallows,” he says. “Look at how big they are.” The troughs are about the size of bathtubs with a cloud of flies hovering above, indicating they’re fresh, from the last couple of hours.

Pompi, 26, unlatches the tailgate and opens the crates bolted to his truck bed, releasing four hunting dogs that run hell-for-leather into the marsh, disappearing behind a low curtain of palmetto trees. Barking erupts in a warped echo. “That’s our hog,” he says. “Bubba jumped him.”

Taz, Sonny and Honey are specifically trained to chase and then bay, or howl, at the hog, keeping it cornered until the catch dog – Bubba, a fearsome American bull – charges in to deliver one crushing bite, pinning the hog by the ear. Pompi flips it by the hindquarters, hogties it and slings it across his shoulders. It can be grisly to witness, and dogs occasionally suffer lethal injuries in the process. “But it’s the best way to get the hog out alive,” Pompi says.

Upwards of 9 million wild boar roam 39 states across the US, which is up from an estimated 2 million in 17 states three decades ago. Florida hosts more than half a million – the second largest population of hogs in the country behind Texas, but also the oldest bloodline. The first pigs to arrive in America were brought by the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, who landed near present-day Tampa in 1539. They promptly escaped, establishing a critical mass of the now-ubiquitous vermin.

Today, wild hogs are considered the most destructive invasive species in the country, and the greatest wildlife challenge that the US faces in the 21st century. According to US Department of Agriculture estimates, they cause north of $2.5bn in damage each year. With gnarled tusks and bodies that can swell to the size of oak bourbon barrels, they trash watersheds, destroy crops, attack livestock, spread disease, terrorize residents and desecrate archeological sites; they are aggressive, whip-smart, lightning-fast and dine opportunistically on oak berries, trash, corn, carrion and each other. A passel of hogs can take out a commercial watermelon or tomato farm overnight, leaving the fields resembling a blast site from a hail of mortar shells.

Florida’s plight is especially severe because the state’s current housing boom, spurred by the pandemic, is rapidly turning the once rural stretches between Tampa and Orlando into a single conurbation. The same goes for the creeping inland sprawl in the rest of the state: wetlands, pine forests and vestigial orange groves that were recently hog habitats have become densely populated housing developments, strings of red-roofed tract homes and retirement communities. The majority of Florida’s new exurban residents, seniors in particular, are living closer to hogs than ever before.

“The new houses go up, and the hogs leave for a while, but they always come back,” Pompi says. He mentions the communes for adults over 55 in central Florida like The Villages, the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the US from 2010-2017, and its smaller counterpart, Solivita, a planned community inhabited by 6,000 baby boomers – Xanadu for the “active adult”.

“We’re on the edge of a land preserve,” says Madalyn Colon, director of safety and security for Solivita. “And the hogs are constantly destroying the fencing that separates Solivita from the wilderness.” As head of security, one of her chief responsibilities is contacting trappers like Pompi to remove hogs.

“I get calls from residents in the morning. The hogs mutilate the landscape, tear up all the nice St Augustine grass, and trash their yards,” she says. “It happens almost every day.”

Hostile encounters with people are not uncommon. Colon recalls the story of a new resident who was confronted and chased by a pregnant sow. “It’s the newer residents who aren’t hip to how bad it is over here.”

The hog issue is not thought of as a solvable problem, but one that could only be attenuated. Although trapping – after which they are sterilized, killed, sold for hunting or released elsewhere – is the most common form of hog mitigation, the traps themselves are often ineffectual. The creatures are smart enough to eat every kernel of corn inside a box trap except the one that trips the trigger.

For over three centuries, hogs were mostly confined to the south-east, in relatively manageable numbers, but biologists have watched them increase by 20% annually over the last decade and their range double since 1980. In 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency approved the use of a poison bait – the single most promising development for managing the ecological crisis to date – but a series of lawsuits from hog hunting and rifle groups, and the potential for the toxicant to be spread throughout the ecosystem, has led to it being taken off the market.

As such, the bulk of the mitigation crusade continues to rest unevenly on the shoulders of hunters. The intractable growth of hog populations has been used to justify a year-round open season with no kill limits in Florida, as well as several other states in the south-east, contributing in large measure to Florida’s billion-dollar hunting industry.

Tree-stand hunts are as cheap as $100 per person, allowing both marksmen and dilettantes to kill pigs until they run out of ammunition. There are several companies in Texas charging tourists thousands of dollars to shoot at sounders – hog herds – with machine guns while leaning out of a helicopter. In Florida, anyone can start an ad-hoc hunting club – all you need is some forested land, barbed-wire fencing and a $50 game farm license. These eradication methods are encouraged and subsidized by the USDA and state governments. But the ethics, and whether or not the commercial appeal of hog hunting is contributing to the problem, are rarely considered.

A shot rings out across a private, 2,000-acre ranch near Arcadia, Florida. A dozen head of cattle turn their long faces towards the shooter, Corey Woosley. One hundred yards away is the boar, on its back, four hooves quivering towards the sky before going stiff and falling leeward.

Woosley helps with the upkeep of the property here, which is only open for hunting to friends and family of the owner. Two years ago, he defected from a much larger ranch in the area, where he worked as a hunting guide, after feeling alienated by a pervading cavalier attitude towards killing. He describes it as a general disregard for life – pig lives in particular.

Commercial hunting ranches in Florida are open to residents and tourists year-round, and can cost over $100,000 annual memberships, or $5,000 a hunt in some instances. Alligator, waterfowl, deer, bison and boar are among the primary targets.

“It’s great that they’ve made an industry out of hunting hogs,” he says “And I don’t judge people who shoot 50 at a time. I guess my part to play is just different than theirs.” He no longer hunts hogs for sport, or for money, but he still has a duty to target them on the ranch occasionally, for the purposes of land and wildlife conservation.

“That’s probably the biggest one I’ve ever shot,” he says approaching the body. It has a prominent European coloration, jagged tusks arcing out of its jaw, and the rigid shield-like shoulders that all mature males develop. He leans down to examine the entry wound, a small red bubble underneath the ear.

“It’s always hard to know if I made the right decision,” he says. “But at the same time I know that everyone else will be happy that he’s gone.”

The rub is that the hunting industry is at least partially responsible for the recent explosion of hog populations in America. In the second half of the 20th century, ranchers realized their value as game and began introducing Eurasian wild boar on private and public ranches across the south-east for the delectation of hunters. The hogs escaped, as is their wont, or were simply released, and bred with existing feral and domestic populations. They have since become the second-most popular game in the country behind white-tail deer.

“The hog thing is complicated,” Woosley says. “The population needs to be controlled, and we shouldn’t kill indiscriminately, but at the same time we’re all addicted to farmed foods and don’t want to eat wild game.”

The sun washes through the pasture as he drives an off-road buggy to the site of another kill from earlier in the morning – turkey buzzards have started to peck at the gut. “I’m just trying to get to a place where I’m only killing when I can use the meat,” he says.

The butchering takes about 20 minutes, and he comes away with two hams and two lean tenderloins that run the length of the backbone. “There,” he says, placing the hams in a black trash bag. “That should last a couple weeks.”

“I’ve probably trapped close to 10,000 hogs,” Pompi shouts from underneath the hood of his truck. He’s changing a spark plug at his neighborhood mechanic shop. “They’ll call me and say they need 20 hogs in two days, and I run all over the state to catch them,” he says, referring to the buyers who purchase hogs to stock their hunting ranches.

“I’m an outlaw.” Pompi means he’s a poacher, which is a grave offense in Florida – unless you are poaching hogs. He says most landowners and law enforcement turn a blind eye. It’s considered a public service.

Over the last decade he’s seen the popularity of hog hunting on private ranches explode. But that also meant hogs were being killed in such large quantities that their ranks were noticeably diminished, and the ones that remained were smart enough to move on to safer territory. That merging of population control and commerce has engineered perverse incentives – the mercenary killing of hogs is based on the misapprehension that hunting ranches are always teeming with them. The most important thing becomes keeping up that appearance, not necessarily ecological rehabilitation.

The upshot is that most ranches now have to import hogs from other regions to keep up with the demand. Pompi cobbles together a modest income as a trapper by selling his catches directly to large hunting outfits across the state, or to middlemen who inserted themselves in the supply chain.

Throughout the day at the shop, a procession of errant youth – hunting buddies and hangers-on – come and go, looking to glean some of Pompi’s ingenuity and charm. All of them tinkering with their trucks or some other mundane task related to trapping.

“We fix everything ourselves around here,” Pompi says. “Gotta keep the trucks running good so we can be out hunting every night.”

Every pickup truck is fitted with a dog box, every person can’t wait to show off his bank of smug trophy photos, or the hoof tracks tattooed on his arm, or talk about how personal circumstances have forced him to make a living in uncustomary, sometimes extralegal ways.

A black truck pulls into the shop. One of Pompi’s friends, Delvin, a doughy guy with red cheeks and khaki shorts sagging at his rear, climbs down from the cab. He has a live sow in his truck bed that he caught earlier in the day and plans to sell to Pompi’s rancher contacts. He runs his hand along the metal crate. It takes a sneering chomp out of the air. “Mean son of a bitch,” Delvin says.

A small crowd gathers around the truck, and, Pompi opens the tailgate without a second thought and yanks it out by the legs so everyone can get a look. The sound a wild boar makes when angry is horrifying – a low, resonant grunt mixed with piercing squeals. The hog bucks its hind legs and Pompi is forced to move with it. The two dance a little jig around the parking lot until he finds some purchase and flips the hog on to its back, pinning it with a knee. The crowd is pleased. The beast lets out one last resigned squeal, and then closes its mouth.

State gets $1.8M grant to boost Molokai forest protection

Maui News

Funding will help with fencing and removal of hooved animals as well as creating firebreaks

Forests on the southern slopes of Molokai are about to receive additional protections from threats like wildfires, erosion and flooding thanks to a $1.8 million award from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources announced Friday.

The funding will go toward proven tools such as fencing and removal of hooved animals, as well as creating firebreaks, which will lead to clearer ocean waters, vibrant reefs, restored plants and trees and fewer disruptions along the island’s main road that stretches from Kaunakakai to the east end, DLNR said.

“We are excited to support DLNR’s work to restore native forests, which will help to reduce risks of flooding, landslides and fire to communities on Molokai and will lead to healthier habitat for native species,” Erika Feller, director of Coastal and Marine Conservation for the foundation, said in a news release.

State Sen. J. Kalani English, who represents East Maui, Molokai and Lanai, said that watershed capital improvement project funds authorized by the state provided most of the match needed to apply for the grant. The larger Watershed Initiative is directing an additional $2 million of state CIP and operating funds to protect Molokai’s forests and employ Molokai residents.

“I’m delighted that this state funding has been able to attract more federal and private funding that will create more jobs on Molokai while helping preserve our forests and reefs,” said state Rep. Lynn DeCoite, who also represents East Maui, Molokai and Lanai.

Some federal and foundation funds are available only when a matching investment can be demonstrated, the news release explained. Since 2013, State Watershed Initiative funds have brought in more than $36 million in federal, county and private funds for forest protection projects statewide.

Molokai’s remaining native forests play a crucial role in the island’s ecosystem by holding soil and absorbing rainwater. Funding helps state agencies and nonprofits to continue to protect the forests and restore areas converted to bare dirt by wildfires and hooved animals. The East Moloka’i Watershed Partnership, led by The Nature Conservancy, involves DLNR and other agencies, landowners and community organizations working to develop a landscape-level management plan to address problems across the south slope, where dirt washes down to the ocean and clogs fishponds, kills corals that need sunlight to grow and feeds invasive algae that smothers the reef.

“The ‘olelo no’eau (Hawaiian proverb) ‘Ina e lepo ke kumu wai, e ho’ea ana ka lepo ikai’ means ‘If the source of the water is dirty, muddy water will travel to the sea,’ “ said Ulalia Woodside, director of The Nature Conservancy, Hawai’i chapter. “By restoring forests, we counter that possibility and provide jobs that allow the people of Molokai to give back to the nature that sustains them.”

County officials also expressed support for funding and emphasized the importance of protecting the island’s forests.

“Each budget session, our Maui County Council allocates significantly to forest watershed protection efforts countywide, and being from Molokai, where subsistence is our way of life, funding resource management is highly prioritized,” said Council Vice-Chairwoman Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, who also serves as the Economic Development and Budget Committee chair.”

Stacy Crivello, Molokai community liaison for Mayor Michael Victorino, added that “Molokai depends on our natural resources to sustain our lifestyle.

“Protecting our watershed and restoring our forests protect our reefs,” Crivello said. “Taking care of mauka takes care of makai.”

Things To Know Before Experiencing Your First Hawaiian Luau

Travel Awaits
by Sage Scott

With a whole roasted pig unearthed from an in-ground oven, grass-skirt-wearing hula dancers, and bare-chested fire dancers, a luau is a festive, can’t-miss experience in the Aloha State. Originally social gatherings meant to unite a community in celebration of significant events, luaus are now held nearly nightly at resorts and other venues across the Hawaiian Islands.

These casual outdoor evening gatherings are similar to backyard barbecues. But instead of hot dogs and hamburgers cooked on a grill, you’ll enjoy tender chunks of slow-roasted pig. Instead of cold beer, you’ll sip fruity rum-infused mai tais. And all of this will take place in a palm-tree-shaded, oceanfront tropical paradise unlike any other place in the United States.

Here’s what you need to know before you attend your first Hawaiian luau.

What To Wear To A Hawaiian Luau
You can celebrate the beauty of this tropical paradise by donning prints inspired by the islands. For both men and women, bright colors like lemon yellow, lime green, ocean blue, sunset orange, and cherry red are all good luau colors.

Men can wear Aloha shirts (also known as Hawaiian shirts). These button-down, collared shirts typically feature palm trees, flowers, and tropical birds in a variety of eye-catching colors, and they pair well with khaki shorts.

For women, a flowy, floral sundress or Hawaiian-style sarong would be a good choice. Glam up your outfit with a shell necklace or a single plumeria flower tucked behind your ear. Just remember to place the flower behind your right ear if you’re single and your left ear if you’re taken!

Casual footwear is the way to go. Leave your fancy shoes and high heels at the hotel, and opt for comfy sandals or flip-flops instead. You can even kick off your shoes and go barefoot — no one will judge you!

Although Hawaii is known for its beautiful temperatures year-round, it can cool off at night. Be sure to bring a sweater, wrap, or light jacket.

Arriving At A Hawaiian Luau
Guests are typically welcomed to a luau with a lei. Traditional leis are made from fragrant, fresh local flowers like ginger, jasmine, or orchid blossoms. But leis can also be crafted from kukui nuts or shells. Regardless of how it’s constructed, the lei is a symbol of friendship, and it’s important to wear it throughout the luau. Setting the lei on the table, stowing it in your handbag, or throwing it away is considered disrespectful and rude.

Seating At A Hawaiian Luau
At traditional luaus, guests sit on the ground on large mats decorated with elaborate natural centerpieces fashioned from ti leaves, lacy fern fronds, and fragrant flowers. While some luaus still offer traditional seating on mats, guests can also enjoy the luau at long community tables.

While mat seating is a more authentic experience, keep in mind that you’ll be getting up and down several times during the evening to visit the buffet, use the restroom, and enjoy the activities. While you’re sure to have an unobstructed view of the entertainment, consider whether you’ll be comfortable sitting on the ground for up to 3 hours before choosing this option.

Dining At A Hawaiian Luau
Just like Thanksgiving dishes vary across the States, there isn’t a set menu for a luau. However, just like you can expect turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie at any Thanksgiving feast, you can expect several staples at these tropical buffet feasts.

Like the golden brown turkey at the center of every Thanksgiving meal, the kalua pig is the star of every luau. In an earthen firepit known as an imu, a whole pig is seasoned, wrapped in banana leaves, and slow cooked over hot coals. Many luaus kick off with an imu ceremony, during which the roasted pig is unearthed before the pork is shredded and added to the buffet table.

Instead of starches like mashed potatoes or stuffing, luaus feature poi. Made from steamed taro root that is mashed and mixed with water until it has a paste-like consistency, poi is often described as having a bland taste, but it pairs well with the savory items on the buffet. Plus, this superfood is gluten-free, high in fiber, and a good source of calcium.

Fun Fact: Because luau foods were traditionally eaten by hand (and not with utensils), the consistency of poi was determined by how many fingers were required to scoop it up and eat it — three fingers, two fingers, or one finger (the thickest).

At the end of the luau buffet, look for coconut-flavored desserts like haupia and kulolo. Haupia is made by blending coconut milk with sugar, water, and cornstarch to create a thick, yogurt-like mixture that is chilled and served in squares. Kulolo mixes coconut milk with taro root (yes, the same staple used to create poi) and sugar to form fudge-like squares.

Other dishes commonly served at luaus include poke, lomi lomi salmon, huli huli chicken, sweet potatoes, chicken long rice, macaroni salad, Hawaiian rolls, and pineapple.

Drinking At A Hawaiian Luau
The mai tai is one of the most popular adult beverages served at Hawaiian luaus. This tropical fruit-and-rum cocktail is made by shaking rum, triple sec, orange juice, orgeat syrup, sugar, and a few other ingredients together before garnishing with tropical fruit like a slice of orange or triangle of pineapple.

Another popular rum-based drink served at luaus is the Blue Hawaiian. Served either on ice or blended to perfection, the Blue Hawaiian gets its oceanic color from blue Curacao and its tropical flavors from pineapple juice and cream of coconut.

Although it was concocted in Puerto Rico, an island on the opposite side of the U.S. from Hawaii, it’s not uncommon to see the pina colada on the drink menu at Hawaiian luaus.

Once the guests have enjoyed kalua pig and poi, Polynesian musicians, luau dancers, and other performers take the stage. Sit back and sip another tropical fruit-infused cocktail while enjoying ukulele music, fire knife dancing, and hula. Many Hawaiian luaus encourage audience participation, and some will invite guests onto the stage for hula lessons.

In addition to luau performers, some Hawaiian luaus include additional interactive experiences like ukulele lessons, coconut leaf headband weaving, and lei making.

How Long Does A Luau Last?

Luaus are traditionally scheduled to include the magnificent Hawaiian sunset and typically last about 2 to 3 hours. While you’ll want to confirm the time of your specific luau experience, most luaus begin around 5 or 6 p.m. and end around 8 or 9 p.m.

How Much Does A Luau Cost?
Located 2,500 miles off the coast of California in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is not known as a budget destination. And just as you may be surprised by the price of a fresh pineapple or a gallon of gasoline in Hawaii, you will find that Hawaiian luaus can be a bit pricey. Expect to pay around $100 per person as a starting point, with upgraded experiences — like reserved seating, additional drink tickets, and souvenir photo opportunities — increasing the package price. That said, a trip to Hawaii is often a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, and a Hawaiian luau is an important part of that experience.

If you don’t upgrade your Hawaiian luau package to include reserved seating, be sure to arrive early to score a good spot. Arriving early will also ensure you’re sipping your first mai tai in record time and engaging in the other activities before the lines get long.

Pro Tip: From the servers to the entertainers, the folks helping to ensure you have a memorable luau experience always appreciate a cash tip.

The Best Luaus In Hawaii
Hawaiian luaus vary by island. Most large resorts offer evening luaus, and your hotel concierge is likely to recommend the in-house option if one is available. If you are enjoying an accommodation without an on-site luau, ask your concierge, host, or another local for a recommendation.

On the island of Oahu, about an hour north of Honolulu, the Polynesian Cultural Center’s luau is considered to be one of the most authentic. Transportation from Waikiki is available for an additional charge, and upgraded packages include lei greetings, canoe rides, and backstage tours.

Provided you’re not battling jet lag, try to attend your first Hawaiian luau as soon as you can after arriving in Hawaii. From the food to the entertainment, a luau is a fantastic way to learn about and embrace the local dishes, history, and culture.

USDA announces second round of funding for feral swine program

National Hog Farmer
USDA

The 2018 Farm Bill created the Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program and is a joint effort between NRCS and APHIS.

The USDA is accepting applications from non-federal, not-for-profit partners for projects to help agricultural producers and private landowners trap and control feral swine, which is part of the Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is making $12 million available and will accept applications through Nov. 5, in eight priority states during its second round of project funding.

FSCP is a joint effort between NRCS and USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The second round of funding is for partners to carry out activities as part of the identified pilot projects in select areas of Alabama, Hawaii, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.

“The 2018 Farm Bill created this new pilot program to enable us to address threats to natural resources and agriculture posed by feral swine,” says Kevin Norton, NRCS acting chief. “This second investment will play a crucial role in getting landowners assistance they need.”

These new pilot projects and areas were selected in coordination with NRCS state conservationists, APHIS state directors and state technical committees to address feral swine issues and damage in areas with high densities.

Pilot projects consist broadly of three coordinated components: 1) feral swine removal by APHIS; 2) restoration efforts supported by NRCS; and 3) assistance to producers for feral swine control provided through partnership agreements with non-federal partners. Projects can be one to three years in duration and are planned to conclude at the end of fiscal year 2023 (Sept. 30, 2023).

The program was first announced in June 2019, and in the first round of funding, NRCS allocated almost $17 million for 20 projects across 10 states. Those projects will continue through the life of the 2018 Farm Bill in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.

Distribution and extirpation of pigs in Pacific Islands: a case study from Palau

Archaeology in Oceania
by Geoffrey Clark, Fiona Petchey, Stuart Hawkins, Christian Reepmeyer,Ian Smith and W. Bruce Masse

ABSTRACT
Neolithic arrival in the Pacific involved, as in other parts of the world, the translocation of domesticated plants and animals by pottery-making cultures in prehistory. Globally uncommon, though, was the abandonment of pottery on some islands and the extirpation of the pig (Sus scrofa/verrucosus) and dog (Canis familiaris) – the two largest mammalian quadrupeds introduced to Oceania – from the subsistence and cultural systems. This paper examines the extirpation of pigs from the Palau Islands as a case study to understand why an important domesticate has such an uneven prehistoric distribution. When suids are fed agricultural produce required to sustain the human population, it has been proposed that competition and extirpation will result, especially on small islands with limited arable land. However, pigs are considered problem animals in many environments because of the damage they cause to horticultural production, particularly the effects of free-range pigs on gardens and plantations. It is suggested that extirpation and low-level animalkeeping are a response to the threat that pigs pose to plant food yields and social relations.

The loss of domesticated animals in Pacific prehistory is a perplexing phenomenon, because pigs and other commensals were significantly involved in the ethnographically observed economic, social and ritual systems of many oceanic societies (Ellis 1833; Harrisson1937; Rappaport 1967). Island size has been related to extinction/extirpation of pigs when the size of the human population reaches a level at which there is competition between pigs and people for staple foods (Bay-Petersen1983). Kirch et al. (2000) noted that trophic competition –the loss of calorific energy to large herds of pigs fed on agricultural crops – increased the likelihood of pigelimination on small relatively isolated islands (overnight sailing or greater to nearest island) with a high human population density (>200 persons per km of arable land),intensive forms of agriculture and endemic warfare.Statistical testing of geographical variables by Giovas(2006) supported the view that island/archipelago size is critical to pig survival using the species–area relationship in biogeography, in which the smaller the landmass, the more vulnerable are its biota to extinction.

The central tenet of the trophic competition hypothesis is that as pig herds grow larger, they are fed increasing amounts of garden products required to sustain the human population. Under conditions of high resource stress and competition, the subsistence return from pigs on small islands is economically unsustainable, leading to the attrition and extirpation of pigs despite the high cultural value of suids. However, in many islands and environments pigs are reckoned to be problematic animals because of the damage they cause to gardens and social relations, rather than for the amount of produce they require to be fed (Heise-Pavlov & Heise-Pavlov 2003;Hide 2003: 160-161; Hughes 1970: 276; Sillitoe 1981).Rappaport’s (1967) seminal study of pig keeping by the Tsembaga people of New Guinea suggested that withou tperiodic slaughtering the pig population would grow quickly and cause serious damage to food crops. Historical and traditional records of pig–human interaction in Oceania similarly highlight the threat that pigs constitute to garden productivity (Dumont d’Urville 1987: 199; Ellis1833: 67; Robertson 1973: 72). It follows that variability in the prehistoric record of pigs in the Pacific, particularly the absence/extirpation of suids on islands, is the result of strategies aimed, at least in part, at controlling the negative impact of pigs on horticultural yields and social relations.

In this paper, we examine the absence/extirpation of pigs on Pacific Islands by establishing, first, the prehistoric loss of pigs in the Palau Islands (Western Micronesia)in the second millennium AD by AMS dating of archaeological pig bone. Palau is an important case, asRieth (2011) has suggested that trophic competition and archipelago size do not fully explain the extirpation of pigs, due to its size (415 km), low population density (75 people per km) and abundant marine resources. Second, we consider the chronological record of pig keeping onPacific Islands. For example, were pigs absent during the colonisation phase, did they become extinct later in prehistory or were they extirpated in the late prehistoric/ early historical era after centuries of domestication? The aim is to propose a broader range of explanations for the patchy geographical and temporal distribution of the pig in the Pacific.

A comment on the use of unattended steel snares as a method of animal control.

HALEHAKU
Chuck Phillips

The proponents of steel snares claim that the animal caught in the snare dies in a matter of minutes as a result of strangulation. The fact of the matter is that the majority of the trapped animals are snared in a manner that allows them to survive for days and sometimes weeks. They are subjected to a living death of dehydration, starvation, infection and being eaten alive by the insect larvae that hatch in the gaping cuts inflicted by the snare and subsequently spread into the eyes, nostrils and mouth of the captured animal. The dependent young that have no choice except to remain with the mother, suffer the same slow death of dehydration and starvation. I want to make it clear that these barbaric contraptions are not monitored or tended in any way. The trapped animals are invariably left to die by the aforementioned manner. Snares can be used to eliminate pigs, goats and deer but are used primarily to control the pig population at this time.

The Nature Conservancy's (T N C) original long range management plan for Waikamoi Preserve on Maui states on page 8 " Recently, the conservancy has formed a consortium of organizations to accelerate the development of promising feral animal control methods to protect Hawaii's remaining native forests. The animal control research consortium will

  1. Conduct a comprehensive, international survey for feral animal control methods.
  2. Implement Hawaii field tests for those methods that are already available.
  3. Conduct new research to prepare promising but undeveloped methods for field-testing.

Waikamoi staff will support this method whenever possible." The next paragraph goes on to say, " We are also testing the feasibility of radio telemetry snares, which would allow us to quickly dispatch captured pigs. When a pig is captured, a signal would be sent through our existing radio system revealing the location of the captured animal. Staff would then travel to that location and remove the animal. However, many technical problems remain to be solved before this technique becomes practical." This long-range management plan was for fiscal years 1995-2000. The acceptance of this management plan by the state's Natural Area Partnership Program made the TNC's Waikamoi Preserve eligible for public funding. This long-range management plan written by the TNC budgeted approximately eighty-five thousand dollars over that 6 year period exclusively and solely to research the use and feasibility of telemetry snares. The two paragraphs that I quoted implied that the TNC was actively seeking a more humane alternative than snaring as a means of animal control. I received a letter from TNC on Feb. 5, 2000,near the end of this research period. The TNC stated, in this letter, that they along with others, after having conducted major research and collaborating with experts elsewhere in the U.S. and abroad, developed their current program. It appears that this current program is similar to the program that they had before all of the aforementioned, promised research. Both are based on the use of unattended steel snares.

I suspect that research for a more humane alternative was never even given serious consideration and that it was merely self serving rhetoric intended to reduce and deflect opposition from animal rights groups. Animal Rights Hawaii, PETA, the Maui Humane Society and all of the various hunting groups have condemned the use of steel snares as a method of animal control. The proponents of the use of snares glibly defend their hellish method of slaughter by claiming that science and economics are on their side. Thousands of snares are in use in Hawaii at this time by the TNC, state and federal agencies and large corporate landowners. The use of these contraptions should be classified as a felony rather than as a standard operating procedure.

Hunting has been the traditional method of keeping the wild pig population in check. The proponents of snaring claim that hunting is not a practical solution especially at high elevations because:

  • The expense of transporting hunters to inaccessible areas
  • Hunters do not eradicate whole populations but only reduce numbers to more manageable levels.

There are other options. Snaring projects are usually used in conjunction with fences. A designated area is fenced then snares are deployed throughout the fenced area. The most promising method of removing pigs from a fenced area is with the use of one-way gates that allow the animals to leave but not to enter the areas. So far, these gates have not been used in an effective manner because the ultimate objective of the users of snares is the complete eradication of the feral pig in the Hawaiian Islands. Therefore, they believe that it is preferable to kill the animals rather than to allow them to escape into the neighboring hunting areas that sooner or later will also be fenced. The TNC, in a letter to me, states, " The Conservancy and the East Maui Watershed Partnership currently install one way gates on all newly built fences. Far from your assertion that they are ineffective and inferior in design, these one-way gates have been operating as intended. While a variety are in use, they are all based on tried and true pig hunter designs." My question is that if the one-way gates that are presently in use are as effective as stated, then why not dispense with the snares and give the gates time to work. It has long been said by those who oppose the use of snares that these fences do not simply fence animals out of the designated areas but rather fence them in subsequently marking them for extermination. In order to be effective, these gates have to be deployed in sufficient numbers, in the right locations and designed to guide the pigs through the gate as the pig follows the fenceline. These gates would be most effective when used in conjunction with bait stations to lure the animals through. A certain amount of research and trial and error experimentation will be necessary. A sufficient number of gates would add to the cost of fencing. If the builders of these fences take issue with added expense then I suggest that they look in their own back yard. I recently attempted to research the cost of the fence project entitled "The Fence Project To Protect the East Maui Watershed", the first phase of which has been completed. This project was funded by the state but unfortunately the records are expensive and at the same time difficult to obtain. I believe that the information that I have obtained warrants concern as to the possibility of graft or at least favoritism related to certain project expenditures.

The early Polynesians brought pigs to the Hawaiian Islands over 1500 years ago. Hunting pigs to supplement the food supply has been a tradition in rural areas ever since. The cultural impact of eradication is significant in rural areas and has been ignored by the environmental community, which is largely urban based.

These animals also perform a beneficial function in reducing thick underbrush. When these animals are eliminated, the undergrowth that has been limited for so long spreads and becomes thicker as time passes. Then in times of drought, it becomes a fire hazard.
The TNC concedes that fire is a real and present threat that could cancel out the effect of years of expensive, publicly funded management projects without warning in one sudden inferno. Fire hazard and alien weed species which have been and are being introduced in to the wild areas by the proliferation of these fencing and eradication projects are rapidly on their way to becoming the greatest danger facing our wild areas in Hawaii. These management projects have accelerated the spread of alien weed species to the higher elevations by decades.

Birds also aid in the spread of unwanted plant species. Does it logically follow that they too must be removed when the time comes? The environmental movement has become a part of the corporate world that it was founded, at least in part, to reform. Irresponsible environmental policies that show little regard for long term effects espouse a constant cycle of blame and eradication that will inevitably devastate the very ecosystems that these agencies and organizations profess to be snatching from the brink of extinction.

If you agree that the inhuman practice of snaring should be banned throughout the state of Hawaii and if you agree that public funding should be withdrawn from projects using this reprehensible practice, please write or call the following people:

House of Representatives
State Capitol
415 S. Beretania St. Rm. 435
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Ph# 808-586 - 6330
repmorihara@capitol.hawaii.gov

Avery B. Chumbley
State Senate
State Capitol
415 S. Beretania St. Rm. 435
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Ph# 808-586 - 6030
abc@aloha.net

Joseph M. Souki
House of Representatives
State Capitol
415 S. Beretania St. Rm. 435
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Ph# 808-586 - 9444
repsouki@capitol.hawaii.gov

Michael Buck
Division of Forestry and Wildlife
1151 Punchbowl St.
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Ph# 808-587 - 0160