Wild pigs killed in Atascadero after tearing up yards

Mike Marquez holds up chunks of his front yard that have been dug up by wild pigs.
Photo by Joe Johnston 12-04-12
Mike Marquez holds up chunks of his front yard that have been dug up by wild pigs. Photo by Joe Johnston 12-04-12 jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Some 40 wild pigs have been euthanized in rural Atascadero in recent weeks as state wildlife officials try to stem a wave of property damage caused by the animals.

Most of the damage has taken place west of the Highway 101 corridor between Atascadero and Santa Margarita in the Eagle Ranch area, said Lt. Todd Tognazzini, state Fish and Game warden. The pigs are tearing up lawns and other landscaping in search of worms.

“There have been periodic reports of pigs in that area, but never to the extent that I’ve seen it recently,” Tognazzini said. “In that area, it’s the worst I’ve seen it since I started here in 1986.”

The Atascadero Christian Home on Santa Rosa Road, Atascadero Lake and the 900 block of San Rafael Road have been hit particularly hard. Mike Marquez lives at the corner of Colorado and San Rafael roads.

He and his neighbors have all suffered damage from the marauding pigs. They will be active for several days and then disappear.

“They sneak in at night and do a bunch of damage and you never see them,” Marquez said.

Two licensed hunters have been trapping the animals, euthanizing them and donating the carcasses to charity, Tognazzini said. Most of the trapped animals are young, recently weaned pigs called shoats.

Tognazzini does not think the problem is being caused by an increase in the pig population. Rather, this year’s acorn crop, the pigs’ preferred food, dropped late and the animals had to go further afield to find food.

Much of the damage is being caused by sows with piglets, whose calorie needs are particularly high. The pigs root around in lawns and gardens in search of invertebrates to supplement their diet.

A property owner whose land is being damaged by wildlife can apply to the state Department of Fish and Game for a depredation permit. Once the permit is in hand, the landowner may kill the animals doing the damage or hire a licensed hunter to do it for them. Pigs are usually trapped because they are primarily nocturnal.

Wild pigs are an introduced species in California. They are a combination of introduced wild boar and domestic pigs that have become wild.

Pigs are an important big game species in the state, but their digging also does extensive damage to rangelands, meadows and woodlands. They also foul streams by wallowing.