Officials: Counting feral pigs is difficult job

HILO (AP) — Hunting and trapping appear to be keeping down the number of feral pigs on the Big Island, wildlife officials said.

But getting a proper count is next to impossible, and the nature of wild pigs could make them seem more numerous in certain areas, said Ian Cole, natural area specialist for the Hawaii Island Division of Forestry and Wildlife.

“It’s difficult. Homeowners in Puna might tell you pigs are running amok, and at the same time, hunters will say there are no pigs on the mountain,” Cole told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

The pigs do not stay in one place long enough to get an accurate tally because they’re constantly looking for food, he said.

A relative shortage of food in the highlands may have led more pigs to search for food near populated areas, Cole said. The Division of Forestry and Wildlife received a large number of calls about pigs on private property several weeks ago.

No pig management program has existed in Hawaii County since 2008, when a yearlong pilot project ended. The state Department of Agriculture project established a list of approved hunters who would trap and kill pigs when they were reported on private property.

Some say the lack of management programs has made a mess of the situation.

“There’s too many pigs and not enough hunters to trap them,” said Tom Lodge, chairman of Hawaii County’s Game Management Advisory Commission.

The animals come into contact with people more often because they can’t get to less-populated areas, Lodge said. Fences on state land prevent pigs from entering protected forest, where they can damage plants and disrupt other wildlife.

Hawaii’s liberal hunting rules should sufficiently manage the feral pig population, Cole said, but acknowledged they will be keep being a nuisance to residents.