Wild pigs on the loose in Napa County

2012-04-08T20:13:00Z 2012-04-09T23:35:51Z Wild pigs on the loose in Napa CountyROSEMARIE KEMPTON Napa Valley Register
April 08, 2012 8:13 pm  • 

Napa County is wild boar country.

These boars, also known as feral pigs, are a little-known but growing problem in the county’s remote areas.

To spotlight these predators of the underbrush, the Napa Sierra Club and Carolyn Parr Nature Center jointly sponsored author Jeffrey Greene to speak about them last month.

Greene showed slides and read from his book “The Golden-Bristled Boar: Last Ferocious Beast of the Forest” to a small but ardent group at the Carolyn Parr center.

An associate professor in comparative literature and English at the American University in Paris, Greene became fascinated with wild boars when he moved from America to France in 1986. After he purchased an 18th-century country home in Burgundy, a neighbor dropped off half a boar in a plastic bag as a friendly gesture. That’s when Greene discovered he’d moved to the most densely boar-populated area in Europe.

Greene’s research took him to Sardinia, Corsica, Tuscany and America as he explored the boar’s feral-pig counterparts as well as traced early legends and myths.

“Ten years from now you’ll be hearing much more about this animal, I guarantee you,” Greene said. “Do the math.”

Wild pigs can procreate at 6 months of age and each female can have two litters a year, ranging from five to eight babies.

According to Andrew Hughan from the California Department of Fish and Game, there is no way to realistically know how many pigs there are in Napa County.

“We know they are on the rise. With virtually no predators and recreational hunting on the decline, the pig population is definitely growing,” he said.

According to Hughan, wild pigs are shy around people, so are seldom dangerous. There is no record in this area of anyone being hurt by one. If someone encounters a foraging pig, they should shoo it away like any other animal, he advised. The chances of encountering a wild boar are remote.

Pigs can be taken by anyone with a hunting license, Hughan said. It is legal to hunt them in Napa as long as you have a hunter education course, have a valid California hunting license and a pig tag.

“A farmer or rancher who has a pig problem generally takes care of it themselves or knows someone with a gun and a license,” Hughan said.

In the 1740s, Russian and Spanish explorers brought domesticated pigs to California. Many of these domesticated animals escaped, becoming feral.

At one time, wolves kept the boars’ numbers down, but there aren’t enough wolves to offset the proliferation of wild pigs. If a mountain lion can’t find deer, it will, on rare occasions, kill a boar, Greene said.

Throughout the world, wild pigs are considered pests that wreak havoc on crops and livestock and destroy golf-course greens in search of worms.

“Boars create a hazard for drivers, causing over 14,000 car accidents a year in France alone,” Greene said. “During hunting season (in France), boars will on occasion run into homes and schools and demolish the furniture and classroom computers.”

Although Greene sounds a warning about the destruction caused by feral pigs, he admires “these outlaw” animals that are constantly in conflict with humans. They roam in strict matriarchal societies called sounders. The oldest female communicates through clicking sounds to her female lieutenants. Males are banished when they are a year old to wander, solitary, until finding another sounder for mating season.

Throughout history, boars have epitomized mystery and myth on six continents, Greene said. They’re nocturnal, elusive and beastly — they appear in “thrilling moments.”

Boars are so stealthy that they make less noise in a forest than a hopping blackbird, he said.

Greene has discovered mythological images of boars throughout the world. The title of Greene’s book was inspired by Gullinbursti, a fabled golden-bristled boar that was forged by dwarves, then given to the Norse fertility god Frey.

“The boar served as Frey’s soaring mount, its bristles lighting up the murky ends of the universe. The forest’s black beasts came to symbolize the returning light of the New Year,” Greene said.

On a practical level, humans owe a great deal to pigs. In many countries, pork is the primary source of protein. Insulin for diabetics used to be obtained from pig pancreases. Boar bristles are used for many purposes, including musical instruments and hairbrushes.

Wild pigs are 90 percent vegetarian but will eat anything with calories, Greene said. They annoy farmers by eating fields of potatoes and corn. They also eat grapes, chestnuts, acorns, snakes, mice and ground birds. Bobwhites and quail have decreased with an increase of wild pigs.

Most boars have the heft of a human. In this country, a rare 800-pound pig, referred to as Hogzilla, was discovered in Georgia.

Greene devotes a chapter to Julie, a pet boar owned by friends. In pictures, Julie appears to be part of the human family, but eventually she became too big for them to keep and it turned out sadly.

Fish and Game advises against having wild pigs for pets in Napa County. A housing permit from his department would be difficult to obtain for non-native species, Hughan said.

Greene’s book ends with a chapter of wild boar recipes that he and his guests say are delicious. Boar meat can carry diseases, so Greene advises wearing gloves during preparation. Cooking the meat makes it safe, he said.

Hughan agreed that boar meat is delicious and said he thinks it should be a menu item in more restaurants.

“Wild pig meat is really tasty. I was really surprised by how good it was,” he said. “Smoked wild pig bacon is amazing.”

Copyright 2015 Napa Valley Register. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(21) Comments

  1. spanish flattened
    Report Abuse
    spanish flattened - April 08, 2012 9:47 pm
    Just had wild pig ham for Easter dinner. Delicious. Taken near Lake Sonoma. Processed at Bud's, in Pengrove. I would love to taste Napa pork and compare it to Sonoma's. Happy to help any Napans with their wild pig problems. Rifle or archery. Hunting partner is an attorney so liability waviers are no problem for the landowner. References. spanishflattened@yahoo.com
  2. David Ingraham
    Report Abuse
    David Ingraham - April 08, 2012 11:49 pm
    Wild boar are a product of weather conditions, wet weather will increase the population. The wild boar need water holes to cool them selves in the summer, they do not have sweat glands. This is why Napa is experiencing more of these pigs from last years heavy rainy season. This year s' rain fall is much less, and should cause a natural die off for wild boar.
  3. OK sooner
    Report Abuse
    OK sooner - April 09, 2012 6:21 am
    Things He left out.
    1) Feral pigs are cannibalistic, the may have a form of BSE (mad cow) You can cook Trichinosis out but not BSE.
    2) You don't "shoo" away a sow with a litter, she may kill you.
    3) A human was charged by a boar off hwy 128 in Sage Canyon in the early 80's. They do attack for no reason.
    4) They eat fawns, sheep and lambs, calves, young rabbits, wild turkey eggs and many endangerd California wildlife species.

    Many had much to say about a young girl last month next to a stuffed deer. You had ugly things to say about hunting, for food or sport. Think about how this destruction to native wildlife will be controled without sport hunters wanting to hang a boar head on the wall of his den. Life to life what is the difference of a deer or a feral pig? The deer is much healthier to eat.
    I will no longer eat feral pig but I shoot all that I can. I just skin and butcher them and give the meat to poor people.
  4. Moochel
    Report Abuse
    Moochel - April 09, 2012 7:06 am
    Are you kidding? Telling people to just 'shoo the wild pigs away' if you encounter them? Wild pigs are dangerous! I have heard of many wild boar attacks to both humans and dogs.
  5. RichardS
    Report Abuse
    RichardS - April 09, 2012 7:06 am
    I am always willing to assist in lower the pig populations in Napa! And also fill the bellies of my family, friends, and others!
  6. Local Yokel
    Report Abuse
    Local Yokel - April 09, 2012 8:23 am
    Wild hogs also take food away from indigenous species like deer, principally the acorn crop. Their rooting in any kind of pasture is particularly destructive.

    I have seen coyotes take a piglet though, they worked in a pair, one harassed and baited the sow while the other coyote dived in and grabbed one.
    They were so quick with this, I assumed they had used this method before.

    There was also a Davy Tree inspector treed by a hog for over an hour on a nearby ranch, he had to call for rescue!

    Wild boar is ferocious when cornered, that is why medieval boar hunting spears had a built in shield on them. It was to stop the boar rearing up the length of the spear and slashing you with its canines before it expired.

  7. Native74
    Report Abuse
    Native74 - April 09, 2012 8:45 am
    I just filled my freezer with a wild pig (sow). They are so destructive and as some already pointed out, if cornered they will charge - even if you happen to raise a feral piglet, the wild is still in them. Happy hunting to those who do, but in reality they need to be controlled as destructive as they are to the landscape.
  8. Native74
    Report Abuse
    Native74 - April 09, 2012 8:48 am
    I have to chuckle though. You can plan and install all the water and erosion protection in the world for vinyards and grazing, but all you need is one wild pig to tear all that planning or implementation to shreds. Who does the Water Board complain and cite when that happens? Mother Nature or the property owner? Don't answer, but it does make you wonder.
  9. napavgirl
    Report Abuse
    napavgirl - April 09, 2012 10:57 am
    I'm not a big meat eater, but wild boar is pretty good. After eating it you'll look at grocery store ham differently.
  10. napavgirl
    Report Abuse
    napavgirl - April 09, 2012 10:57 am
    Moochel said: "Are you kidding? Telling people to just 'shoo the wild pigs away' if you encounter them? Wild pigs are dangerous! I have heard of many wild boar attacks to both humans and dogs. "

    They can be dangerous but I've shooed away bears many times by saying, "go away bear."
  11. reason-ator
    Report Abuse
    reason-ator - April 09, 2012 11:01 am
    OK sooner said: "...Feral pigs ... may have a form of BSE (mad cow) ....I will no longer eat feral pig but I shoot all that I can. I just ... give the meat to poor people."

    So, then, the meat is OK if you don't have health insurance ?

  12. OK sooner
    Report Abuse
    OK sooner - April 09, 2012 12:08 pm
    reason-ator said: "So, then, the meat is OK if you don't have health insurance ?

    Most of you people, poor and rich, eat things I don't/won't eat.
    They are told the dangers but eat trash anyway. Why would I give wild pork to a rich man? He can and does pay to hunt his own.
    The poor eat pork they buy in the store, it's even worse than wild pig meat.
    Rich or poor Americans eat everything from hotdogs to pink slime, why should I throw away meat somebody will eat?
    Up to 10% of Alzheimers effected Americans will really have some form of BSE from pork. Wild or domestic it does not matter, it does not have the controls set on beef for food. Enjoy that ham, you may not remember your kids names in 20 years.
  13. kevin
    Report Abuse
    kevin - April 09, 2012 2:57 pm

    "This year s' rain fall is much less, and should cause a natural die off for wild boar."

    Good luck with that David. The hills around Napa are FULL of springs, even in the driest years. That's what makes hunting so difficult, if there were fewer springs, the darn things would be much easier to find...

  14. Raven
    Report Abuse
    Raven - April 09, 2012 3:37 pm
    "I just ... give the meat to poor people."

    another way to reduce the surplus population?
  15. matt68
    Report Abuse
    matt68 - April 09, 2012 8:17 pm
    Happy to help out with hunting any surplus hogs.
  16. Just Concerned
    Report Abuse
    Just Concerned - April 09, 2012 8:30 pm
    napavgirl said: "They can be dangerous but I've shooed away bears many times by saying, "go away bear.""

    napagirl, I remember when Timothy Treadwell tried to shoo away a bear... all they found was his shoe. I believe it was the left one.
  17. ROSETHEB17
    Report Abuse
    ROSETHEB17 - April 11, 2012 7:39 am
    I dont think you want to shoo a pig.. they are dangrous.. If anyone needs help getting rid of them.. let me know .. i have tags and a license . me and hubby both.. as for their meat.. ITS GREAT..
  18. carry on
    Report Abuse
    carry on - April 12, 2012 11:12 am
    Send the wild boar to Hawaii they live there happily and don't bother the people.
  19. Grits56
    Report Abuse
    Grits56 - April 13, 2012 10:37 am
    Need to do something - Columbus brought a few pigs - along with the other Spanish explorers who added horses - but in only 20 years, there were 30,000 wild pigs on Cuba alone. Napa Swine Country?
  20. reason-ator
    Report Abuse
    reason-ator - April 13, 2012 9:21 pm
    Grits56 said: ".... Napa Swine Country?"

    I love it.

    Kinda like Arkansas.

  21. Ephemerol
    Report Abuse
    Ephemerol - April 13, 2012 11:20 pm
    spanish flattened said: "Happy to help any Napans with their wild pig problems. Rifle or archery. Hunting partner is an attorney so liability waivers are no problem for the landowner. References. spanishflattened@yahoo.com"

    I have been wanting to raise this issue with the landowners of Napa regarding this very subject as according to the NVR, some 30% of all residents of Napa County have trouble putting food on the table at the end of each month. Now that # has risen substantially. Think or consider setting up a non-profit that would allow hunting these animals and having them carefully butchered and 'inspected' frozen / chilled and then parceled out to those of us who struggle in all walks of life in the valley. I would love to pick up enough to get me through the winter months. Maybe the wild turkey population is also on the rise and likewise available?

    Would my Mossburg HD combat shotgun with ball and shot be enough to take even the larger ones down?
Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick