Story by Dan Hust
BETHEL Eurasian boar being raised for sport shoots has raised a ruckus in the Town of Bethel.
Various people and the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) have pointed to Pond Ridge Hunts on Goldsmith Road in Bethel as the source of feral pigs now wandering the countryside.
“There are some pigs running around from that place,” said the DEC’s Lt. Deming Lindsley.
And that’s alarmed residents in the vicinity, including Susan Brown Otto, who told the town board last week she saw three young ones with their mother on a recent trip down Perry Road.
“This is an unbelievably terrible problem for a number of people,” she said to the board. “... Once they take over the place, forget about it.”
The Democrat first broke the story about wild hogs in Sullivan County in October 2010. They were disturbing farms and properties along the Sullivan/Delaware county border, and both the state and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) were monitoring.
The pigs dig up the ground, breed prolifically, and feast on field crops and virtually anything else they can find. They are even known to prey on small animals.
That’s got Goldsmith Road resident Craig Passante worried, especially after he came across two game wardens on his property, armed with semiautomatic rifles as they were investigating the boar reports.
“I have two daughters, ages 4 and 2, and they play outside,” he noted.
But Lindsley said he’s never heard of a pig attacking a human in New York State, and the creatures are very wary and skittish of people.
“I wouldn’t be concerned from a safety perspective,” Lindsley said.
On the other hand, he added, owners of damaged properties can sue those they think are responsible for loose animals, be they pigs, cows, horses, etc.
Or they can just shoot the pigs.
“If it’s on their property and it becomes a nuisance,” Lindsley said, “they can shoot it without even a hunting license, because it’s unprotected wildlife.”
But it’s also unregulated wildlife, and that’s got Passante ticked off.
“It’s not an indigenous animal,” he said, noting that as owner of Holiday Mountain Ski and Fun Park, he’s constantly subjected to inspections. “The big problem is the lack of attention to the man who has them on his property.”
Pond Ridge Hunts is not subject to state inspections, confirmed Lindsley and doesn’t have to be.
“There’s no violation of Environmental Conservation Law,” he said. “I can’t arrest him.”
Pond Ridge Hunts owner Zbyszek Trunirz disputes allegations that the pigs are from his farm, where he breeds them to be used for sport on a hunting preserve near Hancock.
“I have 24 pigs and three young ones,” he told the Democrat this week and he’s confirmed they’re still on his property, behind a double row of fencing.
He admitted that on occasion one might escape, but as they’re social with their own, they return to the boar family.
“Nobody’s told me my pigs made any damage,” he added, though he acknowledged he’d had some issues with neighbors in Hancock.
The Bethel Town Board, however, is looking into regulating such pig farms.
“It’s not considered an agricultural use, based on our [zoning] code,” said Councilwoman Denise Frangipane.
Town Clerk Rita Sheehan is accepting calls and emails (583-4350 ext. 11; firstname.lastname@example.org) from those who’ve seen pigs running free in the township, and Supervisor Dan Sturm said the town is tracking the sightings for future board discussion.
Not everyone in the town, however, is worried.
“I personally don’t think it’s a very serious problem at this time,” said Sullivan County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs President Jack Danchak, whose property abuts Pond Ridge Hunts.
He doesn’t know Trunirz, nor has he seen any pigs.
“I think, come deer season, hunters will take care of the handful of hogs who are not where they’re supposed to be,” Danchak predicted.
The DEC, however, is officially advising people not to deliberately hunt the pigs.
“[Hunting them] tends to scatter the populations, and they tend to set up for lack of a better term new community groups,” Steve Hurst, the DEC’s chief of the Bureau of Wildlife Services, told New York Outdoor News in February. “It establishes a new breeding population of these pigs and actually accelerates their expansion.”