• Seen the little piggies?
     | June 02,2014

    Sometimes, when you are feeling upbeat and positive about life, it is good to have a friend remind you there are things you can be worrying about.

    The other day I was reveling in the beauty of a warm and sunny Vermont afternoon when my buddy made a sobering observation.

    “It’s just a matter of time before those pigs from New Hampshire start coming over here,” he said.

    I took offense to this comment. I don’t buy into any rivalry between Vermont and New Hampshire. Just because we were the first state to pass ground-breaking laws concerning important issues like civil unions

    and single payer healthcare, and their claim to fame is being the first state to set a world record for the most people to simultaneously wear fake nose and glasses, is no reason to cop an elitist attitude. And just because presidents Calvin Coolidge and Chester Arthur were born in Vermont, whereas New Hampshire’s most renowned resident Earl Tupper invented food storage containers that “burp,” is no reason to refer to people from the Granite State as pigs.

    “I have no beef with the residents of New Hampshire,” I told my friend.

    “Not beef; pork. And not residents; wild boar,” he explained. My buddy went on to tell me New Hampshire has a documented feral pig population which Vermont wildlife biologists are concerned might spread into the Green Mountain State.

    This situation sounded as urgent as working on my base tan, so I decided to go home and research the issue. Sure enough my alarmist friend was correct. According to the Brattleboro Reformer, the most invasive and destructive large mammal species in North America was on the move and becoming an increasing threat to our state. And they weren’t talking about the Tea Party.

    An ignorant person might consider handling the wild pig population as you would the deer population – by expanding a hunting season. Unfortunately there is huge difference between pig and deer. If you don’t believe me, try this little experiment. Tomorrow morning, turn to your significant other and instead of saying, “Hey dear, would you get me another cup of coffee?” Say, “Hey pig, would you get me another cup of coffee?” I’m betting you will see an early season fireworks show. But I digress.

    Mark Ellingwood, chief of wildlife for New Hampshire Fish & Game said there are between 100 and 200 free-ranging feral swine in the southern part of his state. He noted the source of most of these pigs is a 23,000-acre privatelyowned hunting preserve established in 1889 by a man named Austin Corbin. “By all accounts these pigs have breached the fences on multiple occasions,” Ellingwood said. The wildlife official guessed it was just a matter of time before the boar figured out how to cross the river, and introduce themselves to the residents of Vermont. This is not good news, as feral swine can be very destructive.

    Nationwide, wild boar annually cause an estimated $1.5 billion in damage. In addition to preying upon wild turkey, woodcocks, and other ground nesting birds, they totally monopolize snacks at parties. Basically, they are pigs. “These are aggressive foragers,” Ellingwood confirmed.

    The animals can also threaten the health of humans by transmitting a wide variety of illnesses, including Brucellosis, Pseudorabies and two other diseases I can’t pronounce.

    Wild hogs, known as Russian boar, grow to between 200 and 300 pounds. They have rough hair, tusks and sharp teeth, and are fond of wearing professional sports team jerseys. According to Ellingwood, these animals can be “wily and ornery animals.” Especially during the play-offs.

    The good news is if you find you have an uninvited Russian boar at your next picnic, you do have recourse. As long as you have a valid hunting license, and you can confirm that the Russian boar is actually a game preserve escapee and not a resident of Moscow waxing poetic on about the merits of Vladimir Putin, you can shoot it. That’s right; as quickly as you can say, “step away from the onion dip,” you can be makin’ bacon out of a former party crasher.

    Personally, I think it would be best to avoid the boar right from the start, as introducing a population of wild pigs to the state promises to cause nothing but trouble. Let us learn from history. If you happen to be on the shores of the Connecticut River one day and see boat full of boar, resist the urge to welcome them with open arms and offer trinkets. And if they insist on coming ashore anyway, remind them Vermont has both an income tax and a sales tax. I assure you, once they hear this news they will book passage on the next boat back to New Hampshire.

    Mark S. Albury lives in Northfield Falls.

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