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Atascadero wrestles with a wild-pig problem

December 6, 2012 |  5:00 am

A feral pig.

The wild pigs come at night, often unseen.

By morning, homeowners in an Atascadero neighborhood have realized all too vividly that they've had visitors. Searching for food, the animals have torn up lawns and gardens, causing thousands of dollars in property damage and triggering calls for officials to control them.

About 40 have been trapped, removed from populated areas and shot, said Todd Tognazzini, a California Department of Fish and Game warden who supervises enforcement in San Luis Obispo County. The meat from their bodies has been donated to charities.

Tognazzini, a warden in the area for more than 25 years, said lone pigs have always wandered from the woods into yards around Atascadero but not in the numbers seen since September.

The pigs, mostly young and 40 to 60 pounds, have ranged into unfamiliar territory on a quest for acorns, a staple food in short supply because of sparse rains last year, Tognazzini said. Discovering lawns, the omnivorous pigs shove their noses deep underground for worms and grubs, flipping up chunks of earth as they do.

"They turn them upside down completely," Tognazzini said. "If you've ever put sod in your yard, it would look as if it's been unsodded."

The rambling lawns around the Atascadero Christian Home have been a particularly tempting target. Bill Mohr, the senior home's director, said parts of the campus in front of its assisted living and residential facility are now bare, along with patches of yards at its cottages. Re-landscaping will cost more than $2,000. 

"I've been here seven years and this is the first time we've had anything like this," he said.

The incursions were first reported in early September and subsided after initial rounds of trapping. They recurred less than two weeks ago.

Relocating the pigs would have violated department policy, Tognazzini said.  They would retain their appetite for lawns and their destructive behavior could occur again elsewhere, he said.

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-- Steve Chawkins 

Photo: A feral pig. Credit: California Department of Fish and Game

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