Sunday, April 17, 2011

Going Wild

Okay, after some research and looking at pictures, what I saw was indeed a pig. It was rather smaller than the animal that puts the B in your BLT, but it was female (no tusks), may have been a juvenile, and anyway feral pigs come in various sizes but are often small. They come in various colors but the gray coat is accepted style. The problem is that Connecticut is one of the few states in which they have not been reported. Either this one didn't get the memo, or it was somebody's pet that wandered off. Its indifference to my presence would argue for the latter. I hope so, because they can do a lot of damage.

I can think of three other Old World mammals that Europeans have unintentionally introduced to the wild in North America. Horses don't cause a lot of problems because they pretty much occupy the niche vacated by the slaughtered bison, and the federal government limits their numbers -- to the bizarre objections of some people.

Then there are rats. They seem to limit themselves to human cities, and so only bother humans. Their ancestors must have had some other niche, but whatever it was, they don't seem interested in it nowadays.

Finally, and this sad to say is the biggest problem of all, there are the feral cats. Cat lovers, and there are many, don't like to hear a word against them, but as Maryann Mott tells us in the linked article, it is estimated that feral cats kill hundreds of millions of birds, and more than a billion small mammals such as chipmunks, every year. They never existed in the Americas until Europeans started losing their pets. Domestic cats have not changed much since they started using cute fuzziness to freeload on humans, so they revert to the wild very easily.

Cat loving activists try to deal with the problem by sterilization, but that seems to me like sweeping the beach. There probably isn't much that can be done beyond targeting specific colonies that are readily accessible. This is one more reminder of the collateral damage we do with purely innocent intent.

The new photo in the banner recognizes the change of season.


  1. Love the new header. Great photo. Glad you identified that porcine interloper. My in-laws who live on the island of Kauai have been hassled by some feral pigs lately, getting into their garden, and causing general mayhem. They also have been dealing with feral chickens. Ah country life!

    Yes, cats are reckless little killers. We've had one for a decade now. First one I've ever had, and last.

  2. "In urban areas, he said, there are hundreds of cats per square mile (1.6 square kilometers)—more cats than nature can support."

    Yeah, well, in urban areas, there are more humans than nature can support. What an inane comment. Of course, humans never consider their own impact, or the fact that these non-human invasive species, in every instance, are there because humans brought them. And we get our knickers in a twist over them....

    I can tell you that feral cats in New England (can't speak to other parts of the country) "thrive" (I'm using the term loosely) only where there is a fairly dense human population. I have walked the woods since I was old enough to walk and I can tell you that feral cats are not a problem. They don't live long enough to become a problem; indeed, they become food for other predators fairly quickly. Large colonies in human-choked areas, such as the campus where I work, tend to get wiped out by diseases, which spread quickly and lethally through feline populations.

  3. the aforementioned relatives in hawaii now and again enjoy roasted wild pig.

    try calling your visitor. "come here porkchop."

    too bad the feral cats don't kill the rats.

  4. spring! and you've got a porcine!

    ok, i'm going to quarrel with you about invasive species -- rats are disease vectors, they thrive in urban areas, they can easily get into houses and restaurants, they eat anything, they can hide very easily, and they breed like demons. a mama rat can produce a new litter every few weeks. take a look around public buildings -- government offices, hotels, prisons, college campuses, eateries, etc. -- i'm seeing a lot of unobtrusive rat poison dispensers, suggesting there is a problem they are trying to address.

    you know i'm a soft-hearted cat person. three of my four are former ferals, rescued as babies. all are fixed -- the spca, rescue oganizations, and even pet stores put spay/neuter at the top of the list, and many vets in my area participate in spay/neuter programs pro bono. there isn't exactly a shortage of kittens, but neither are there huge colonies of feral cats taking over -- i think the fix and adopt programs [and even the fix and release programs] are doing good.

    a real problem is people not doing spay/neuter, and then dumping pets when the miracle of life becomes too much. dumped cats might get by for a while, but they are prey for larger animals, they easily pick up nasty diseases, and their lives tend to be nasty and short. the NG article you linked was a bit dated; i can't easily find a more recent study.

  5. I didn't say rats aren't a problem! I said the only species they really bother is us.