HAZARD – There has been lots of talk in recent years about the increasing coyote population in Eastern Kentucky, but officials in Perry County are also seeing an uptick in calls related to another nuisance animal — wild pigs.
Hazard police officers responded to the latest call Thursday on Argyle Circle, said Lt. Paul Campbell, after what he described as a large feral pig was spotted inside a resident’s yard. And this latest report wasn’t the first the department has received in recent weeks.
“I think this is maybe the third complaint that I can think of regarding released or feral pigs in the neighborhood,” Campbell said.
Campbell isn’t sure where the pigs spotted in Hazard are coming from, if they were released or escaped from a pen, but he noted the animal spotted on Thursday was definitely feral and putting it down was the only option available.
“In this case, Fish and Wildlife, they suggested really the only option is attempted capture or putting the animal down, and there was no opportunity for attempted capture on this,” Campbell said, though he added officers in another situation were able to capture some animals during a prior call in the same neighborhood just few weeks ago.
Wild pigs are considered non-native nuisance animals and found in localized populations across the state, according to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, largely the result of people illegally releasing the animals into the wild to hunt.
Chad Soard, a wildlife biologist with the agency’s wild pig program, explained that while in some cases shooting the animals is the best option, it is not necessarily an effective population control method. If the pigs are found in large groups, and only one or two is put down, the others in the group will learn to shy away from humans as much as possible.
“In truth, removing one animal out of the group really does nothing,” Soard said. “It’s always a good thing if there’s a solitary animal in front of you and you can take a safe shot and remove that pig. If they’re in a group, you are better off to the hold that trigger.”
Recreational hunting can also be counter-productive in terms of population control because it drives the animals to contain most of their activity to the nighttime hours. Coincidentally, while it is legal in Kentucky to hunt wild pigs year round with a license, it is illegal to hunt the animals at night.
And like other wildlife such as whitetail deer, the agency is not looking to manage any populations of wild pigs in the state.
“You can’t outpace their reproduction. They’re a very smart animal, and this is not an animal we’re looking to manage on the landscape,” he said. “We are looking to eradicate them. This is an invasive species.”
Problems caused by wild pigs can be three-fold, including damage to local agriculture and the native ecosystem. And then there’s the disease factor. Forty-five different parasites have been known to be carried by wild pigs, which can in turn be transferred to other animals or even humans. And there also exists the possibility of physical injury considering the animals can reach well over 200 pounds.
“Like any wild animals … they’re unpredictable by nature,” Soard said. “You always want to give them the respect they deserve and give them their space. Most wild pigs, quite honestly like many things, they don’t want to be around us any more than we want to be around them.”
Soard said Kentucky’s problem with wild pigs isn’t as pervasive when compared to other states like Texas and Alabama where much larger populations are found, but the state is looking to be proactive in preventing wild pigs to continue to spread. So far, 28 of Kentucky’s 120 counties have reported a confirmed sighting (Perry County was not one of them as of this week), and 17 counties have confirmed breeding populations.
Soard urged anyone who spots a wild pig to report it to Fish and Wildlife immediately, and in some cases the department will be able to assist.
“We want to work with you,” he said. “We’ve got trapping cost-share programs, and sometimes we can help with active control. We’re going to do what we can to assist.”