State wildlife managers target feral pigs

State wildlife managers will take aim at ridding Oregon of a potential feral swine population outbreak before it harms native wildlife habitat or threatens wild animals with disease.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has created a program that would require landowners or their agents to kill any feral swine — also called wild pigs — on their property.

Landowners would have to report the presence of wild pigs within 10 days of their discovery, and then file a plan with the ODFW within 60 days on how they will rid the non-native swine, which are blamed in other states for harming native wildlife habitat and ground-nesting birds.

The rules were set for consideration and adoption today in Salem by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. The rules were drafted to implement a bill passed last year by the Legislature to keep Oregon from becoming the next state overrun by wild swine, which are known to exist only in small pockets scattered throughout the state.

Legislators couched the law as a way to remove incentives for allowing feral swine to roam public or private property. States such as Texas and California have popular sport hunts for feral pigs on private ranches and public lands.

But pigs escaping from private California ranches in the 1950s have exploded to where the state now sports as many as 1 million feral pigs — including animals in every county.

In Southern Oregon, migrant pigs from California will always be a threat, said Rick Boatner, the ODFW's invasive species coordinator.

"Until California gets really serious about their problem, we'll continue to see those migrants," Boatner said.

But Oregon can keep its numbers small if it acts quickly, Boatner said.

Rosemary Stussy, an ODFW biologist in Central Point, said there have been no confirmed reports of feral pigs in Jackson or Josephine counties over the past several years.

They have never really taken off on their own in Oregon, but small pockets of pigs have cropped up in the state. A small group of pigs surfaced about two decades ago outside of Ashland, but it appears to have been eradicated since then.

Reports of pigs in other areas have been confirmed, including near Powers in southern Coos County.

Feral swine are all non-natives that trace their roots to Europe and Asia. Oregon's first pigs came as an easy food source for early settlers at the mouth of the Columbia River near Astoria. Settlers would let the pigs roam freely, then shoot them when needed.

Any swine on properly fenced private lands are managed as livestock by the Oregon Department of Agriculture. But when they escape or are hunted, they fall under the management of ODFW biologists who want them eliminated.

The commission also was poised today to adopt a new rule that will expand the opportunities ranchers, golf course owners and others will have for harassing geese and other migratory birds off their property.

Current state and federal law does not ban harassment of migratory birds, provided they are not listed as threatened or endangered, and no state permit is required to do so.

However, Oregon's law that bans dogs from running at large April through July — the game-bird nesting season — could at times run afoul of the option of using dogs to scare geese off agricultural lands or fairways.

The commission was set to create a new, free Wildlife Harassing Permit allowing landowners or agents to use dogs to harass nonthreatened geese and other migratory birds.

"We don't have any issues with it," said Brandon Reishus, an ODFW assistant game bird biologist working on the rule. "We just have to change our rules to make it lawful."

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail

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