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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 14, 2006

Feral pigs descend on Manoa neighborhood

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer

Yes, Manoa, you've got pigs.

More specifically, feral pigs.

Approximately 150 to 200 Manoa residents attended a town meeting Wednesday night to express their concerns about feral pigs invading backyard gardens, causing erosion on the forest floor and hiking trails around the valley.

For several weeks, seven "Got Pigs?" roadside signs have been posted around the valley to announce the meeting.

The pigs are a problem the residents would like to deal with in a humane way before serious damage is done.

Mandy Bowers, a valley resident for nearly 50 years, said people living on Huelani Drive in East Manoa are worried about hillside damage.

"They tear up the ground on the hillside so nothing can grow," Bowers said. "Earth and lots of rocks come down with the water (during heavy rainfall) and it's blocking the drainage areas. The pigs are an invasive species and they're tearing up the native forest and uplands."

Doug Friend, a Woodlawn Terrace Place resident, said pigs digging for worms have uprooted his flowers twice in three weeks, most recently three days ago. "My major concern is they are disturbing the soil (in the forest) and that they're coming across the street to Woodlawn Terrace Place now," he said.

Patrick Costales, the state Forestry and Natural Wildlife Division O'ahu branch manager, said while he's excited to help find solutions for the pig problem, he does not believe the pigs are to blame for landslides that occurred during last months heavy rains on Round Top Drive and in Manoa.

"If you look at what was the big difference, it's the amount of rain and the duration," Costales said. "Nature is doing its thing. It's the function of slopes, rainfall, soil and gravity. Pigs contributed a little but not to the landslides."

To make his point, Costales noted a normal, short period of heavy rain would not cause the number of slides that occurred last month. "Nothing changed; the forest cover didn't change," Costales added. "In my 33 years of experience, I've never seen seen that amount of rain (as last month)."

Costales hopes to present a plan for a controlled hunt, which will not involve firearms, to residents by June. He favors a hunt that will also include a nonlethal alternative such as box traps.

"It's a complex issue but my take is we can come up with some ideas to bring back to the community," he said.

The last time the area addressed the feral pig problem was from May 2004 to July 2004 and November 2004 through January 2005. Jason Sumiye, Ko'olau Mountain Watershed Partnership coordinator, organized the controlled hunt that stretched from Makiki to Manoa. A limited number of hunters were given permits to hunt on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with knives and dogs only. Twenty-one pigs were killed in 27 total hunting days during the two periods, said Sumiye, who attended Wednesday's meeting.

Because officials don't know the actual number of feral pigs in the area, it's hard to determine the effects of controlled hunts, Sumiye said.

"You have to hit a large number of the population, 80 percent, to keep it down," Sumiye added, noting that pigs reproduce rapidly. "Trying to control them takes quite a bit of work. We can scare them so they won't wallow in one place."

Until recently, Elizabeth McCutcheon, a Woodlawn Terrace resident, never had a problem in the 43 years she's lived in the area. Pigs have just started coming into her yard and garden. Her concern is mostly for her pet cat.

"I'm not sure why they're coming down this far but my next-door neighbor had a whole family of pigs a mother and father and three babies camping in their yard under a tree," McCutcheon said. The neighbor used a box trap to capture the pigs alive and have them removed, she added.

An adult feral pig weighs a couple of hundred pounds and is dangerous, especially if a mother thinks her piglets are being threatened, Costales noted. He advises anyone who sees a pig to move away from it.

Rep. Kirk Caldwell, D-24th (Manoa-Manoa Valley-University), was one of three area lawmakers who organized the meeting at Manoa Innovation Center. "Most want the pigs removed but in a humane way," Caldwell said. City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi and state Sen. Brian Taniguchi, D-10th (Manoa-Mo'ili'ili-McCully-Makiki), co-sponsored the meeting. Also attending the meeting were Ed Johnson, state hunting coordinator; Ethan Shiinoki, acting state wildlife biologist, and Na Ala Hele Trail specialist Aaron Lowe.

Reach Rod Ohira at rohira@honoluluadvertiser.com.