Pigs, feral sheep damaging Buttes
Forty years after property owners released a few wild pigs in the Sutter Buttes, the range is swarming with thousands of rooting hogs.
“They are very destructive. They kill off our ground and they go down into the orchard and destroy the trees. They bump up the ground which makes it hard for harvest time,” said Margit Sands, who owns 1,200-acre Dean Place, also known as Dean Ranch, in the Sutter Buttes.
She said a landowner released the pigs in the late 1970s and they have repopulated into the thousands.
Sands is also concerned about some feral sheep in the Buttes, but they aren’t as destructive as the pigs.
Walt Anderson, an environmental studies professor with extensive experience in the area, said the hogs cause wide-ranging, visible damage.
“It’s hard to imagine that the people who released the first six pigs in the Buttes were unaware of the damage the pigs were causing where these were trapped in Colusa County in the Coast Range. So maybe it was denial more than ignorance, but neither excuse is adequate to deal with the potential harmful impacts of pigs run amok,” said Anderson.
PHOTOS OF HIKE IN BUTTES
Landowners are limited in what they can do. Some ranches are trapping and shooting the pigs on sight when on their land.
“But the pigs are now very wild and wary, hard to get. One persistent pig hunter has killed about 1,000 all by himself,” said Anderson.
He says that even if the people on one ranch are vigilant and effective, the pigs will be on land where no hunting is occurring.
“These become refugia and breeding grounds for the pigs. As long as they have refugia, they can’t be wiped out. There are also some state laws that limit what a landowner can do, even those these are not native wildlife,” Anderson said.
The state park managers are aware of the problem and have considered building a pig-proof fence around the landlocked state park territory, but the terrain is rocky and rugged.
The only solution, according to Anderson, is for the cooperation of every landowner and incredible persistence.
“They have become wild animals now, and they have few or no natural predators to control them.”