In Brief

By Chuck Graham 09/06/2007

Pig Free At Last

The Channel Islands National Park and The Nature Conservancy recently announced the successful completion of a two-year program to eradicate feral pigs from Santa Cruz Island. The plan could save the endangered island fox and nine rare plants from extinction.

This was the second largest project of its kind in the world, and a major step toward the ecological restoration of the largest California channel island, 25 miles off the coast of Ventura.

\"We’re already seeing many positive changes on Santa Cruz Island as a result of removing feral sheep during the past two decades,\" said Russell Galipeau, Channel Islands National Park Superintendent. \"Elimination of the pigs was the last island-wide action necessary to protect and restore the unique plants and animals on Santa Cruz.\"

Launched in April 2005, the eradication program was completed in record time by Prohunt Inc., a professional hunting firm from New Zealand that specializes in island conservation through the elimination of non-native animals. Feral pigs were removed from fenced zones on the island by employing aerial hunting, walk-in corral traps and ground hunting with tracking dogs. A total of 5,036 pigs were dispatched using non-lead bullets and following euthanasia guidelines set forth by the American Medical Veterinary Association.

Feral pigs were originally brought to Santa Cruz Island as domestic farm animals in the 1850s. Over time, they rooted up vegetation, causing massive erosion, spreading invasive weeds and destroyed archeological sites. The pigs also attracted golden eagles, which feasted on the endangered island fox to near extinction.

The decision to eradicate the pigs followed years of scientific review of alternative options. The pigs could not be brought to the mainland because of their potential to spread disease to domestic livestock. Contraceptives and sterilants, while sometimes useful for animal control, have not proven effective in the eradication of pigs. The final cost of the eradication program, shared by TNC and the NPS, was approximately $5 million.

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