Eight words I never thought I’d say, let alone document in writing? Jim has gone out hunting on our land. But it’s true—he has his rifle and he’s not playing around.
He’s not stalking deer, bunnies, bears (ok, we don’t have any of those here). He is out looking for our farm’s equivalent of the zombie apocalypse: the wild boar. Yes, we apparently have at least one wild hog interrupting the somewhat peaceful existence that is Tails You Win Farm.
Now, before anyone gets upset and starts lobbying for feral pig rights, let me assure you that we would NEVER, I repeat, NEVER make this lethal decision lightly. We have a great respect for all things living out here, whether part of our family or part of nature. For God’s sake, I actually hug trees. And name them. Seriously, I’ll introduce you to Billy Ray Cyprus someday.
But the wild hogs are a very different story. Rather commonplace in many parts of Texas, these pesky creatures have apparently migrated north and are proving to be very unwelcome guests in our home, sweet home range.
This story actually started a couple of weeks ago when we got a call from our nearest neighbor informing us that one of our pigs was loose in our horse pasture. Our wise neighbor knows that Jerry Swinefeld loose in our horse pasture can quickly translate into Jerry Swinefeld standing on his front porch peering in the windows, so he’s quick to call if he spots him outside of the pig pasture.
Jerry is a big hulk of a hog and really quite an affable guy (don’t ask Jim about this…he has a different opinion. Everyone is entitled.) He occasionally forgets there are boundaries in his world, and at around 800 pounds, there really are few boundaries that can hold him back if he decides to roam. A phone call informing me that Jerry is “visiting the neighbors” is not shocking.
So I headed out to the barn to grab some feed and coax my errant piggy home. But when I flip on the lights, there, blinking sleepily, and dare-I-say innocently, is Jerry, snuggled up beside Spamela Anderson. Right where he should be. Sweet, good pig!
(I could literally hear Jim rolling his eyes as he read this. Did I mention he’s not a fan? In fact, in the event that society collapses and we are forced to survive off the land, Jerry is the first animal on his “survival food” list. Alas poor Jerry. Don’t get comfortable Bob the ram…you’re a close second.)
So, either Jerry is very clever (not so much), and very fast—managing to go about 15 acres to harass the neighbors’ dogs and hightail it back to look all sleepy and completely innocuous in the span of about 10 minutes—or we had another visitor.
My first thought was that someone else in the area must have a pig that escaped. We didn’t see the pig again the next day, so my guess was that it headed home, as Jerry would have, to be on time for the all-important next meal. True to stereotype, meals are big events in the day-to-day lives of hogs.
In talking with my neighbor the next day, however, he said that he thought he had seen three dark colored pigs running across an adjacent cow pasture a few weeks earlier. Hmmm. This news did not thrill me, especially since I was fairly sure no one else in the area had hogs, but since we had not seen them again, I didn’t dwell on it. My hog was (for once in his life) not the guilty party, so all was right in Tails You Win land.
That false sense of calm took a dramatic turn the day before Thanksgiving. Jim headed out to take care of our animals and was greeted by a large, definitely-not-a-pet-piggy boar standing outside the back door of our barn. Actually, make that napping outside the back of our barn. Yes, a big, tough wild boar. YIKES!
By Jim’s description, the “piggy” in question looked something like this guy I found on the internut (not a typo…trust me…better name for it):
Tusks? Yes, tusks. Mutual of Omaha, meet Tails You Win Farm. Jim’s logical take was that this little piggy either needed to cry “weee, weee, weee” all the way home, or he needed to head to market. And by market Jim meant hog heaven. But not the good kind. Or the motorcycle kind.
My immediate response, of course, was, “You can’t shoot him!” My brain was still seeing anything porcine as a friend…something to slap a clever name on and feed on a daily basis. Jim wisely let me think things through. Which I did with a little help from my friend Google.
I found fabulous information like this:
Considered an invasive species, feral hogs can rapidly increase their population. Sows can have up to 10 offspring per litter, and are able to have two litters per year. Each piglet reaches sexual maturity at 6 months of age. They have virtually no natural predators.
“They’re mean. They’re aggressive. They’ll charge you. They’ll cut you or stab you with their teeth. They have big tusks, or cutters, as we call them…”
“You have to be real careful when you’re up close and personal with one. It’s hard to shoot when you’re shaking and running.”
Feral hog food preferences can hardly be mentioned without discussing competition with native wildlife. The potential for feral hog competition with native wildlife for food, cover, water or space should always be a concern for landowners and managers. There is documentation of competition for food with deer, turkey, waterfowl, raccoons, opossum, foxes, squirrels, bobcats…
WAIT! (insert nails-on-chalkboard sound of a needle dragging across a record) SQUIRRELS? Oh hell no. These hogs are not going to mess with James Squirrel Jones and Squirrely Temple!
Add to that the fact that wild hogs can carry diseases that could not only be a danger to my pet hogs, but also to every other animal on the farm. Even our dogs. And trust me, you don’t mess with our dogs. If you do, the dangerous, wild-eyed species you’ll have to deal with will be ME.
Still in due-diligence mode, I also placed a call to our local game warden. He basically confirmed everything I read on the internut (sometimes you CAN believe everything you read out there!). He informed me that reports of wild pigs were becoming more common in our area (oh yay), that the pigs were becoming increasingly problematic, and that we did not even need a permit to “eliminate” them on our property.
I do not like the idea of killing wild animals. The deer that pass through our world are gentle, beautiful and welcome. We are happy to share our pastures with them. The waterfowl that noisily touch down on our pond each evening and honk like an alarm clock at dawn, are charming. My dear re-introduced into the wild squirrels are, well, family. We even coexist peacefully with the coyotes that serenade us every evening. But this hog (hogs?) poses a threat on many levels and logically, I know he has to go.
In a sense, I guess this is somewhat the same as a city-dweller having to set traps to catch a mouse that has breached the threshold. This is just a much larger, scarier mouse, and one that could easily charge at my beloved Jim, who is out there on this foggy morning at this very moment.
Suddenly I hear a loud crack, followed by another.
The dogs freeze in place and stare (except for our pit bull mix…he ran and jumped in a crate. Um, Bernie? Don’t your kind HUNT wild hogs?). The horses, donkeys and mule freeze and stare, ears erect and pinpointing the exact direction of the gunfire.
I hold my breath and wonder if Jim has been successful, and wonder if I am happy about that or sad. I’m guessing I will be a mixture of both.
Then I hear a steady crack…crack…crack. This either means that he has shot a hog and he’s going with the “Jason theory” to be damn sure it’s dead (you know how it goes, it’s the recurring theme in just about every scary movie. They shoot/stab/bash the scary human/monster…they turn their backs thinking the nightmare is over…the scary human/monster rallies and bites their heads off. ALWAYS in multiples, people! Shoot/stab/bash REPEATEDLY!), or he’s enjoying a little target practice.
I quickly exchange the following texts with Jim (because all good hunters carry their smart phones along so panicky loved ones can interrupt their task at hand):
Ok. Exhale. Everyone on the farm, including the damn wild boar, is safe for today. That’s good/bad.
Well, life on the farm is kinda laid back,
Ain’t much an old country boy (girl) like me can’t hack.
It’s early to rise, early in the sack,
Thank God, I’m A country boy (girl)!
Oh John Denver, your song says NOTHING about I’ve got me a fine life, I have to shoot a wild boar. Life on the farm is most definitely not always laid back! Stay tuned…this story will undoubtedly be continued.