The National Park Service wants public feedback on a new plan to manage wild pigs at Congaree National Park, where porcine invaders are threatening the bottomland hardwood forest that makes the park special.
Pigs are a common sight at the park. But according to a National Park Service report, recent research shows their rooting and wallowing can damage the actual cypress-tupelo stands and bottomland hardwoods that make up the forest. The report also cites pigs’ competition with (and eating of) native species, their potentially aggressive behavior toward humans, impairment of water quality, disease and unsightly pig trails as problems.
Until now, the park hasn’t done much about its pigs.
“We’re currently doing very little at the park,” says Superintendent Tracy Stakely. “We have some cooperative funding from the USDA and they occasionally go out and shoot some pigs, but it’s very minimal.”
Under the proposed plan, the park would roll out a comprehensive plan that could include fencing off certain sensitive areas of the park like archaeological sites; coordinating with nearby landowners; and a stepped-up shooting and live-trapping program.
One idea in the plan involves creating “Judas pigs” — pigs that are trapped, radio-tagged and released, and that would then lead hunters to the other pigs in their group.
No public pig hunting is planned, Stakely says.
Dead pigs would be “left in the field to decompose on the ground surface without burial,” according to the plan; they couldn’t be donated or sold as meat because of concerns about disease. They would be moved at least 200 feet away from trails, visitor areas and bodies of water.
The park would name a “wild pig program officer” to coordinate pig management.
The estimated cost for all this pig management? $221,220 for the first year, $184,400 the second year and $165,300 the third year, with reduced costs in later years. Currently, the Park Service spends $25,000 a year on the joint Park Service-USDA pig control operations at Congaree.
You can weigh in on the proposed plan here.