Wild, hungry pigs still rampaging around Santa Ana River – Press Enterprise

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Nicole Gardner was walking her dog around her Corona neighborhood one October afternoon when she had a shocking encounter — with a wild pig.

“It had tusks. It growled and moved toward us,” the 18-year-old said. “My dog just started barking at it. I was pretty scared. They were about the same size.”

Gardner and her mom, Judy, said the pigs have visited their north Corona neighborhood near the Santa Ana River at least three times since October. They roam in the street and dig around for food in front lawns, the family’s video footage shows.

“If you drive around our streets, you’ll see all these lumpy yards,” said Judy Gardner, who described her front lawn as a “puzzle.”

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“We’ve just sort of given up fixing ours,” she said. “We try to make light of it, but it’s really a terrible and unsafe situation.”

Wild swine have been around for decades in parts of Riverside County, mainly around the Santa Ana River, Prado Reservoir and surrounding areas, including Corona, Norco, Jurupa Valley and Riverside. In one example of their rampages, the porkers tore up turf at Riverside’s Fairmount Park in 2016. And, in early January, they damaged grass by the cabins at Rancho Jurupa Regional Park in Jurupa Valley, near the river, Riverside County Regional Park and Open-Space District officials said.

“It looks like someone used a rototiller on the turf, as they use their tusks to dig up their dinner,” said Jack Altevers, a park ranger supervisor.

The pigs regularly loop around the park, starting and ending their days in the river bottom, he said.

Wild pigs have been reported in the Santa Ana River since the 1970s, said Chanelle Davis, a biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Most are descendants of domestic pigs who escaped or were set free from old farms around the river corridor and became feral, Davis said. Some bred with European wild boars, creating a wild boar/feral domestic pig hybrid that has evolved over time.

The omnivorous creatures are mostly found in meadows, marshes and woodlands near bodies of water, where the ground is fertile. They feed year-round on roots, grubs and invertebrates like earthworms and centipedes. They mainly hunt for food in the evening until early morning.

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A feral pig is seen in an unknown location. The pigs — which are mainly descendants of domestic pigs who escaped or were set free from old farms — have been spotted in Riverside County and throughout California for decades. (File photo courtesy of California Department of Fish and Wildlife)

Though the Gardners haven’t seen pigs in their neighborhood for a few weeks, the family expects that to change closer to summer. They’ve also spotted the animals roaming the hills and damaging the field near Stagecoach Park in Corona, where recent winter rains have kept the grounds fertile.

“A well-watered lawn is very enticing for them — they tend to allow insects to be closer to the top of the soil where they can be easily detected by feral pigs,” said Davis, who said she’s seen reports of 20 to 30 pigs hunkering down in different areas.

Davis expects the pig population to grow, “based on pig biology and the lack of predators.”

“If there’s food, they’re going to procreate,” she said. “And there appears to be a lot of food.”


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