Monday, May 21, 2001

Johnathan Scheuer, left, and Steve Montgomery hold
a feral pig that was trapped recently in the wooded area
behind Scheuer's Manoa residence. Scheuer hired a
hunter to snare the pigs that keep encroaching on
his property.

Wild pigs invade neighborhoods

Homeowners and hunters
battle the porcine invasion

By Diana Leone

When Sarah Preble first noticed rocks and grass out of place in her Manoa Valley backyard, she did not consider wild pigs, even though a neighbor had mentioned trouble with the animals.

"I didn't think a whole lot more about it," she said. "Then one day a few weeks ago, I'd picked a few avocados. I had one in each hand and was 15 or 20 yards from our house. I looked ahead of me and saw a black, hairy back -- about the size of a neighbor's Labradors, but shaped different. Then just beyond, I saw a dark brown head with large tusks.

"We had a bit of a stare-down," Preble recalled of her encounter with the two pigs. The boar "looked straight at me. This was a chicken-skin experience."

After the pigs ambled away, she and her husband, Duane, sought help from the Department of Land and Natural Resources. It came in the form of a pig hunter, specially licensed to help remove pigs from populated areas where traditional hunting methods will not work.

The hunter's snares, set on the border of the Prebles' land and adjacent forest preserve, nabbed four pigs in the space of a week. Snaring is allowed on private land and, with a DLNR permit, on public land.

Steve Montgomery, left, and Johnathan Scheuer measure
a pig wallow in Manoa. The water was 10 inches deep.

Though some dislike the use of snares to trap pigs, Preble said from what she saw, "It is humane and it works. They caught four."

The presence of feral pigs in remote areas of the Hawaiian Islands is nothing new. But some are surprised to see them popping up in residential areas of Oahu, including Nuuanu, Manoa and Niu valleys -- even in Kaneohe or Hawaii Kai.

Pigs could be coming lower into the valleys in search of yard-based delicacies like avocados or the yummy earthworms that live in a well-tended flower bed. There may be a shortage of water in upper elevations at some times. Or there could just be more pigs.

No one really knows for sure, not even David Smith, Oahu district wildlife manager for the Forestry and Wildlife Division.

In 2000, 1,837 pigs were reported at hunter check-in stations on public hunting lands statewide. Double that to account for hunting on private lands, and there is still no way to know how many pigs are out there.

"I get a lot of calls from Manoa," said Pascual Dabis, president of the Oahu Pig Hunters Association.

Many of the calls are referrals from DLNR, which does not have the staff to handle pig removal. Dabis assigns a club member to meet with the landowner and agree on the best way to dispatch the pig. If the pig is small or the owner does not want it killed, the pig is relocated to more rural quarters.

Dabis estimated he personally has eliminated 50 or more pigs in the several years since the club has been doing the volunteer work for the DLNR. Other members have been busy as well, he said, though he has not kept a running count of pigs caught.

Club members offer hunting with dogs, if the area is rural enough, or trapping with one of several cage traps. Dabis said he personally does not like the snare method, saying that at times an animal can break free and develop gangrene on the snared leg. Or, if not taken from the snare, they can die there.

This kind of information raises the ire of Cathy Goeggel, director of research and investigation for Animal Rights Hawaii, which she described as a group of several hundred people who "act as advocates for animals."

Goeggel's opinion is that "hunting of feral pigs is not an acceptable solution to the problem." She suggests pig birth control by injection and fencing of areas where people want pigs kept out.

No estimates were available for the cost or practicality of birth control for pigs, and fencing does not come cheap. The Nature Conservancy estimated back in 1996 that it costs $35,000-$50,000 per mile.

Hawaiian Humane Society President Pamela Burns said her organization "certainly promotes the humane treatment of all animals" and prefers that if pigs must be killed, it be done as quickly as possible. She does not care much for traditional pig hunting, in which both the dogs that find the pigs and the pigs themselves can get some pretty serious wounds.

Yet she understands that not all pesky pigs can be relocated. The Humane Society sometimes helps trap and move pigs at landowners' requests, Burns said.

The hunter who relieved the Prebles of their pig problem chose not to identify himself to the Star-Bulletin. But people who have worked with him said they have confidence in him.

"Some people say snares are cruel, but let's face it, killing pigs is cruel," said Manoa resident Johnathan Scheuer, who has seen eight trapped from behind his home, which, like the Prebles', abuts forest reserve.

Scheuer has used the same hunter as the Prebles and said he is comfortable with the way the hunter designs his snares and the frequency with which he checks them. Scheuer also said he has never seen dogs or people on the pig-created trails in the reserve.

Wildlife manager Smith said the system of having hunters deal with pigs that infringe on residential areas seems to be working. "I never get complaints, never get callbacks" after landowners are connected with hunters, he said.

Wild pigs, said Scheuer, are extremely destructive to forests -- especially native plants that do not have defenses against the rooting and grazing of pigs. Ultimately they degrade the watershed, he said.

"People tend not to react to an issue unless it affects them," Scheuer said. "This literally is in our back yards."

Oahu is not the only island where pigs sometimes roam into neighborhoods.

Tom Telfer, Kauai district wildlife manager for 35 years, has had more calls than usual the past few years.

"The last 212 years until really this spring, we went through a real severe drought," he said. "Pigs depend heavily on guava fruits, and during the last two years, there's been very poor fruit production."

So, pigs are coming into yards and cane fields, he said. "By and large on Kauai, our pig populations in accessible forest areas are under fairly good control."

Telfer said hunters stay enthused as long as they are getting a pig for every 10 or so hunting trips. After that, he said, most lose interest.

Marge and Herbert Moraoka have lived deep in Nuuanu Valley for 35 years and never had a pig in their yard until last year, they said.

Pigs dug "two great big holes, 2 feet or more in diameter" in their sloping front lawn, and "I had two big beds of heliconia, and they dug it all up," Marge Moraoka said.

The couple credits members of the Oahu Pig Hunters Association for the capture and removal of a sow and four piglets. Now there is another trap in their yard, waiting for the next interloper.

It seems the pigs keep coming.

Hunting on public lands

Number of animals killed and reported by hunters at public check-in stations for all islands in 2000:


Wallowing in pigs?

Call the Department of Land and Natural Resources district wildlife managers for services of pig-hunter organizations or for more guidance on removing pigs yourself. Or, if you prefer, call the Hawaiian Humane Society at 946-2187:

Oahu: David Smith, 973-9786

Big Island: Tom Lum, 887-6063

Kauai: Tom Telfer, 274-3433

Maui: Meyer Ueoka, 984-8108

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin