Beware the feral pig.
Northern New York is taking a proactive approach to curbing feral hogs, an invasive species slowly spreading through the state.
While only a small population of these wild pigs lives in St. Lawrence County, the state Department of Environmental Conservation is keeping a close watch on their movement so they do not establish in Jefferson or Lewis counties. The hogs already have established themselves in parts of Cortland, Tioga and Onondaga counties.
James F. Farquhar, a Region 6 wildlife biologist with DEC, said there are some strong concerns about feral pigs and the damage they can inflict.
"Feral pigs can do substantial damage," Mr. Farquhar said. "They root around in agriculture land. Virtually anything is edible to a pig, and they can compete with native wildlife. They do carry diseases which they can transmit to other pigs. This is especially a concern to pig producers."
To help raise awareness about this invasive species, the New York State Wildlife Management Association is hosting a seminar from 1 to 4 p.m. June 25 at Baldwinsville Village Community Park.
"When we compare the relatively small numbers a few decades ago to how those numbers exploded in the southern states, and now the population is moving up north, we are very concerned," he said. "We could end up with big numbers if we are not diligent about them, particularly near agriculture land."
Dale V. Stockton, vice president of the association, said the hogs can reach 300 to 400 pounds and reproduce rapidly.
"They can breed up to three times in one year and each litter can have up to eight or nine in it," Mr. Stockton said. "The females of the first litter can start reproducing three months after they're born."
In New York state, feral pigs are considered unprotected wildlife and can be harvested, year round, by hunters who have a small-game license. Mr. Farquhar said that while taking hogs is permitted, it is better to try to remove the entire group.
"When a sow has babies, the family group will stay together for some time," he said, "What we will try to do is come in with traps and get rid of them as a group. They are very wary animals and they become more wary under pressure."
The meat of feral hogs is edible.
"As long as you handle it properly, it's just like what you'd get in the store, but a little less fatty," Mr. Stockton said.
The seminar is free and will be led by Gary DePalma, a nuisance wildlife control specialist. Pre-registration is requested and should be made by June 20. To reserve a space, contact Mr. Stockton at 1 (607) 648-9250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.