Feral pigs running wild in Sullivan County

Video: Part 1 of A Pickup Load of Pigs: The Feral Swine Pandemic, a three-part series produced by the Mississippi State University Extension Service. More from the series available here.

Feral pigs are gaining a foothold in western Sullivan County and other places in New York State -- and without much in the way of state resources to control them, the job of keeping their numbers from exploding is falling to private citizens.

This week, a story in the Times Herald-Record features local farmer Peter Andersen, who also starred in a Reuters story about the pig plague earlier this year. His fields are being overrun by wild boars, and recently, reporter Adam Bosch writes, he killed eight of them in one night:

In two minutes, he fired nine shots and killed eight pigs. He also proved two points:

"I'm a very good shot," Andersen said with a serious chuckle, "and these animals need to be destroyed."

The story identifies one of the local sources of the problem: A private hunting preserve in Bethel called Pond Ridge Hunts, which charges hunters upwards of $500 a pop for the privilege of shooting the boars.

Preserve owner Zbyszek Trunirz acknowledged that the pestilent hogs on Andersen's farm belonged to his company. He said fallen trees broke the fences on his property, allowing the pigs to get loose.

Last month, the AP reported that wildlife officials in New York State were considering a ban on private hunts like the ones at Pond Ridge.

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. Their distribution is clustered near preserves, he added.

"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. We've had domestic pigs for centuries and never had a feral hog problem until the game ranches started bringing these in."

Both stories note that some feral pigs caught in New York State have tested positive for pseudorabies, a highly contagious herpes-related disease that does not spread to humans but that can cause devastating fatalities on domestic pig farms, and also infects cows, dogs and cats as well as wildlife like bears, raccoons, coyotes and deer.