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Another View: Going hog wild in Sacramento

By: Assemblyman Frank Bigelow / Guest Columnist
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Getting hunters, land owners, animal rights groups and farmers to all agree on a policy is pretty unusual in Sacramento.
However, wild pigs and the range of problems they pose has proven to be a common denominator for these folks. All parties agree damage the invasive species causes to property is immense and poses a significant health risk. As the population of wild pigs rapidly increases, problems they cause will only worsen.
Wild pigs are not native to California, but they can be found in 56 of the state’s 58 counties. Although there is no official count, the statewide population is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands. In fact, the wild pig population has the potential to triple every year, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Wild pigs are also known to cause health risks. They are known to carry five waterborne pathogens that can be passed to humans, including E.coli and giardia. 
They can also host up to 37 different parasites. In addition to public health risks, wild pigs cause severe ecological damage to habitats of endangered, native species.
For farmers and rural Californians, an inflated population of wild pigs can spell disaster. They overrun fields, destroy crops and dig up lawns. A University of California Statewide IPM Program study estimated a 6 to 10 percent loss of revenue from agricultural damage in the state due to wild pigs.
As a rancher from the Central Valley, I have seen first-hand the destruction they have on crops and farm animals. 
After several years of comprehensive negotiations between a wide group of stakeholders, I introduced a bill to better manage populations of this invasive species.
The measure would make it less expensive for hunters to help reduce the spread of wild pig populations, specifically highlighting sport hunting as an effective population management tool.
It includes a switch from charging hunters $22.42 per tag to an annual $15 fee validation, allowing hunters to take any number of pigs throughout the licensed year. In addition, a landowner can remove a wild pig on their property without a depredation permit and follow up reporting, tremendously reducing burdens for both the landowner and the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Furthermore, the measure would classify wild pigs as an exotic mammal, providing the Department of Fish and Wildlife more flexibility to develop an effective management plan.
Wild pigs are a danger to California. This policy encourages hunting, while protecting the standards for humane population management.
Through this comprehensive resolution, we can, and must, manage the state’s wild pig problem.
 
Lifelong rancher and sportsman Frank Bigelow represents the 5th Assembly District, which encompasses Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Madera, Mariposa, Mono, Placer, and Tuolumne counties and includes Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park.