The California Department of Fish and Wildlife recently published their annual Wild Pig Take Report and Mendocino County earned a unique designation: out of California’s 58 counties, Mendocino County saw the fifth highest amount of pigs harvested during the 2020-2021 season.
The counties that ranked higher than Mendocino were #4 San Benito, #3 Kern, #2 San Luis Obispo, and number one in the state was Monterey County. Including Santa Clara, which came in as the sixth highest state, these six counties accounted for 66.5% of the wild pig hunted in California last year.
The CDFW determined that 195 wild pigs were killed in Mendocino during this period, a mere fraction of the 1,188 hunters harvested in Monterey County. Throughout the entire State of California, 3,950 pigs were harvested that year. This is a drop in the bucket compared to the six million wild pigs estimated to live throughout 35 US states.
Mendocino County offers several areas of public land for wild pig hunting such as the Upper Lake Ranger District, the Red Mountain Ranger District, the Jackson State Forest, Cow Mountain Recreation Area, and Covelo Ranger District. But, the overwhelming majority of all wild pigs hunted last year were not on public land, but on private.
Wild pigs have become a mainstay in California’s rural north known for their unique ability to wreak havoc on an ecosystem. Their diet is wide-ranging from small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, roots, nuts, and more. In their never-ceasing search for food, wild pigs use their snouts to churn the soil like a rototiller.
Their unique feeding behavior of rooting, wallowing, and trampling makes wild pigs what USDA calls “ecosystem engineers” changing the environment, influencing water quality and runoff, changing plant composition, and decreasing tree diversity.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the six million wild pigs currently living in the United State cause $1.5 billion worth of damage annually.
Wild pigs have many names: wild boars, wild hogs, razorbacks, the Russian or Eurasian boar. They are a non-native species, a product of colonization brought to the United States by settlers. They are adept at adaptation, thriving in diverse ecosystems. Out of California’s 58 counties, only two are free of wild pigs.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife uses its wild pig management program to “minimize damage to California’s native plants and animals, parks and recreational activities, and agricultural operations from the foraging habits of wild pigs.”
California State Senator Bill Dodd, whose congressional district includes Colusa Sutter, Yuba, Glenn, Lake, Solano, Yolo, and a portion of Sacramento County introduced a bill in January 2022 to the California State Senate designed to increase wild pig hunting opportunities in the state, thus helping control the population. The bill was passed in late May and is being bandied about in committees working to refine the language and provisions.
California’s wild pig problem is as exponentially growing as the species’ population. As state leaders seek solutions, Mendocino County residents compelled to do their part in the management of this species could grab their rifles, wander into the hills, and boost our numbers.
Check out the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s guide to wild pig hunting for information about licensure, tagging, and best practices.