Rural New Jersey Tackles Wild Hogs Rural parts of New Jersey are having trouble with wild hogs. The feral pigs root up lawns and golf courses. Biologists are trying to trap the feral pigs so they won't spread disease to livestock and want to contain the wild hogs' population.

Rural New Jersey Tackles Wild Hogs

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And now to New Jersey and some pests you might not expect to find root around there, wild hogs. Reporter Eugene Sonn has this story on how people in New Jersey are dealing with the swine.

EUGENE SONN: Wild hogs are not native to New Jersey or the most the country for that matter. Between 50 and a hundred feral pigs are living a corner of Gloucester County, halfway between Philadelphia and Atlantic City. It's a flat, sandy-soiled area known as the Pinelands. The wild pigs are rooting up the most trouble at the White Oaks Country Club in Newfield. At the eighth hole, groundskeeper David Foot(ph) describes the worst damage of the season.

Mr. DAVID FOOT (Groundskeeper, White Oaks Country Club): Literally looked like somebody took a roto-tiller across the approach (unintelligible) all the way up to this bunker here and all the grass, the green side's down and the roots are up and the roots are all eaten off of it.

SONN: Foot and his workers had to get on their hands and knees replacing the torn-up sod, piecing it together like a jigsaw puzzle. Eric Dobson is co-owner of the country club. He says three or winters ago the hogs would attack the course almost every night. He got so frustrated doing repair work that he tried to shoo them away.

Mr. ERIC DOBSON (Co-owner, White Oaks Country Club): We put guys out there at nighttime to try to scare them off the course and of course that's the night they don't come, so nobody wants to sit out there at one o'clock in the morning and wait for a pig to come by.

(Soundbite of running tractor)

SONN: Just up the road from the golf course Wayne Biyashi(ph) has been growing shrubs and plants at the Piney Hollow Nursery for over 30 years. Sitting on his tractor among rows of forsythia and cherry laurels, Biyashi says the hogs are an ongoing problem.

Mr. WAYNE BIYASHI (Gardener, Piney Hollow Nursery): Ten years ago they were really bad, then I would see 40, 50 of them out here. They actually haven't bothered my plants, they just come and they dig everything up like (unintelligible) looking for worms or the roots or grass or something. So far they haven't bothered my crop, thank God.

SONN: Biyashi(ph) thinks it's just a matter of time before the pigs get into his green houses so he's happy to let the USDA set a trap on his property. Three wild hogs, including a 250 pounder, have been caught at the nursery.

(Soundbite of running tractor)

SONN: Biologists from the USDA ride into the woods on ATVs to check their ten-foot trap. It has spring-loaded saloon-style doors that will slam shut if a hog roots into a trip line. (Soundbite of doors slamming shut)

SONN: Nicole Rhines(ph) says the key is tricking the hogs into thinking it's safe to come in and eat the corn bait.

Ms. NICOLE RHINES (USDA): So we let them go in and be able to come out. That's why the doors are wired- tied open, so they're not actually trapped, and once they get comfortable doing that we actually set the trap and come out every day, every 24 hours, to monitor it, to see, what we have caught.

SONN: Kevin Sullivan of the USDA says he doesn't know how the wild pigs got to New Jersey. They could be escaped livestock that have adapted to living in the woods or someone may have let them lose for hunting. He's not surprised that they're thriving since the hogs are as adaptable as white-tailed deer. Sullivan says they're a threat to more than golf courses and nurseries.

Mr. KEVIN SULLIVAN (USDA): Ground-nesting birds, turkey, quail, the feral swine can eat their eggs, destroy their nests, they can compete with deer, raccoons, or any of the native wildlife.

SONN: Nationally there are an estimated four to six million wild pigs. As many as two million of those are in Texas. There, Sullivan says, it's a matter of trying to reduce their impact but here he thinks they can eradicate the whole herd. Other states have enlisted hunters to shoot the wild pigs, but New Jersey is waiting to see if trapping and killing them will work. For NPR News, I'm Eugene Sonn.

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