Marauding pigs being released, says fed-up lamb farmer
Farmer Steve Knudsen's got nothing against pig hunters, but he's seeing red over what he claims is the rearing and release of pigs into the Hunua Ranges on his doorstep.
Knudsen's sheep and beef farm, Matingarahi Station, southeast of Auckland adjoins the Hunuas. He said that pigs break fences to get into his property where they disrupt lambing, causing him up to $4000 a year in lamb losses.
He's built a pig trap on his farm and one of his latest catches was a big blue pig with an ear tag. Knudsen said blue pigs, which he knows to be coveted by pig hunters, do not occur naturally in the Hunua Ranges.
He believes pigs are being regularly reared and released for hunting by someone in the district. He claims other farmers in the area are also fed up.
Knudsen has contacted the Auckland Council, which is responsible for biosecurity in the area. He said the council officer he spoke to, Mark Mitchell, senior regional biosecurity advisor, told him the council was aware there was a "major" problem but had no way of proving where the pigs came from.
Knudsen suggested to Mitchell that one way would be to DNA-test captured pigs.
Mitchell, in a statement in response to NZ Farmer inquiries, said the council was aware of residents' concerns about feral pigs in the Hunua Ranges and would be investigating reports.
"Feral pigs are declared as pests in Auckland. It is an offence to release feral pigs in the Auckland Region, under the Auckland Regional Pest Management Strategy.
"We take feral pig releases seriously and would like further information on any known releases in the region. Information can be sent to Biosecurity@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz."
Knudsen said he loses income each year when ewes, disturbed by pigs during lambing, abandon their lambs.
The invaders also broke his fences and damaged paddocks.
He has seen up to four pigs at a time, and said he regularly sees signs where pigs have been.
"I'm not against pig hunters but this is a case of someone using my land, that I have paid for and pay rates on, as part of a pig release operation."
Mitchell said the council knew feral pigs lived in larger areas of native forest and exotic tree plantations in the Auckland region.
"Feral pigs are very destructive in native bush areas, rooting up the ground, eating the fruits, seeds, roots, stems or leaf-bases of native plants; plus native insects, snails, earthworms, frogs, lizards, and ground nesting birds and their eggs. Feral pigs can also adversely affect primary production, causing damage to fences, pastures and livestock.
"There is low public awareness of the potential impacts feral pigs have on the ecology of high conservation value forest areas in the region. Feral pigs are known to be carriers of bovine tuberculosis and leptospirosis and thus could act as a vector of these diseases into the region."