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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 9:51 a.m., Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Neighbors feuding over feral pigs on Big Island

Associated Press

HILO, Hawai'i — Big Island neighbors are feuding over feral pigs.

Sueo and Sharene Matsumoto say they love pigs and feed about 100 of them regularly on their 12-acre lot in a densely wooded subdivision south of Hilo. They've even named some of the regulars, like Bobo, Dante and Benedict.

But neighbor Paul Claes, who lives a few hundred feet up the gravel road in Fern Forest, hates the porkers. The pigs have torn up his garden, made wallows in his yard and chewed on his pipes for water.

He kills and eats them when he can. He's also shared the meat from 85 pigs to people at the community center over the past 17 months, he said.

"We ate Goldilocks. We ate Snow White," said Claes.

Both Sueo Matsumoto and Claes believe they occupy the moral high ground.

Matsumoto, a retired contractor from California who is in his 80s, says the pigs were in the area before people carved it up for homes. He started feeding wild pigs after three boars, two sows and 12 babies appeared one day. A few days later he heard shots and the babies came back alone, so the Matsumotos fed them.

The Matsumotos now pay $600 a month for bags of food for the pigs.

Humans are the most advanced creatures on earth, so they have a duty to care for animals, Matsumoto said.

Claes said roaming pigs destroy people's yards and the forest.

"This is an issue about the aina," he said, using the Hawaiian word for land.

Other neighbors accuse the pigs of spilling into their lots, leaving a trail of feces and stench, and ravaging crops and gardens. Some of the pigs even kill dogs, they say.

Maggie Klein said the boars have devoured her medical marijuana and dug up her yard.

"I gave up on a garden," she said. "They're an amazing nuisance."

Hawaii County Councilman Bob Jacobson, who represents Fern Forest, said his garden has also been attacked.

"I harbor ill feelings toward pigs and would like to eat every single one of them," he said.

State Health Department Janice Okubo said an inspector went to the Matsumotos' home April 24 and found no health hazards.

Deborah Ward, spokeswoman for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources said the state doesn't recommend feeding wild animals, but has no authority on private land.

Hawaii County Planning Department officials said the Matsumotos don't appear to be breaking zoning laws. The pigs are not confined or eaten so the property doesn't qualify as a pig farm.

Even so, enemies of the feral swine may have an ally in the county.

The county council has allocated $250,000 for a new islandwide program that pays U.S. Department of Agriculture agents to trap wild pigs on residential property when the owner requests it.

The agents, who have licenses, will shoot the pigs on the spot. The homeowner can keep the meat, donate it or let the carcass be buried in a landfill.

"This is not an eradication program," Councilman Dominic Yagong said. "It's a control program in residential areas."