By MICHAEL VIRTANEN | Associated Press
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — While New York tries to eradicate Eurasian boars from its fields and forests, environmental regulators have banned hunting or trapping them in the wild.
That should actually help get rid of nuisance animals, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation. After researching the issue in other states and taking comments on proposed solutions, the department concluded that hunting tends to be ineffective and disperse groups, or sounders, of wild pigs.
The boars were brought to North America centuries ago and are numerous in the South. They've been reported in many New York counties, with confirmed reports of wild breeding in Tioga, Cortland, Onondaga, Clinton, Sullivan and Delaware counties. They can weigh as much as 300 pounds. Roaming groups have devastated crops and wildlife habitat with rooting and voracious foraging.
"As long as swine may be pursued by hunters, there is a potential conflict with our eradication efforts,'' department Commissioner Joe Martens said Monday. Hunters pursuing them where state or federal wildlife authorities have baited traps can undermine that effort, the department said.
New York's final regulations, which were issued last week, don't immediately ban so-called "canned'' hunts on enclosed property.
The department also can issue special permits to landowners to kill nuisance animals. Under the law, farmers whose property or crops are damaged can kill them without a permit.
However, the state law enacted in October immediately prohibited importing, breeding or letting any go. It will ban possession, sale, transport or marketing of live animals, including canned hunts, in September 2015.
Trapping whole sounders, the goal of state and federal eradication, is most effective, the department said. More than 150 pigs have been caught and killed. It rejected a proposal for putting a bounty on wild pigs, noting that bounty hunting is generally unlawful in New York except when the state recognizes an immediate health hazard.
In Tennessee, a statewide hunting season that began in 1999 with no bag limits resulted in wild hogs popping up in new areas of the state from "illegal stocking'' to expand hunting, the department said. Tennessee ended it by reclassifying them in 2011 from big game animal to destructive species to be controlled by other means.
Authorities said the regulation applies only to Eurasian boars, and says it doesn't mean New York hunters can shoot other free-ranging domestic, farm and pot-bellied pigs that get loose. They are covered by state agriculture laws with no legal provision for hunting them.