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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wildlife Wednesday: The wild pigs of Tejon Ranch

Guests on Tejon Ranch Conservancy’s events know well that we aren’t the biggest fans of the wild pigs (Sus scrofa) that inhabit the property. Aside from being non-native species, the pigs are: 

1.                 Destructive- rooting and creating erosion on steep slopes, wallowing in creek bottoms,       and possibly even eating some of the rare plants and animals of the ranch-
2.             Prolific- females are sexually viable at an early age, have a short gestation, and give birth to multiple young at once.

Today’s Wildlife Wednesday shows a sounder (yes, a group of pigs is called a sounder) running through Tunis creek late last summer. Although the piglets are admittedly pretty cute, when we see them, we think about the acorns they are eating, which means fewer for the deer, black bear, jays, and acorn woodpeckers; not to mention the pressure that puts on regeneration of Tejon Ranch’s 80,000 acres of oak woodland. We think about the hillsides torn apart by the pigs’ rooting for bulbs in spring.

Fortunately, because the 2008 Ranch-wide Agreement which established Tejon Ranch Conservancy was so forward-thinking, there is something we can do about it. Already, the Conservancy is collaborating with the Tejon Ranch Company’s hunting program to expand the harvest of pigs. The Conservancy identified wild pigs as a principal threat to native biodiversity in its 2013 Ranch-wide Management Plan. We will be spending the next several years trying to understand the geography and ecology of the wild pig population on Tejon Ranch, which will inform our management strategies. Already, we are benefiting from the work of a UCSB Bren School of Environmental Management project all about the pigs on Tejon Ranch. 

Understanding these complex behaviors, demographics, and implications will take some time. We are hiring a Wildlife Technician to start monitoring pigs and the damage they cause. Despite the long-term nature of this issue, Tejon Ranch Conservancy is excited to help advance the management of wild pig populations for the benefit of agencies, partners, and interested parties throughout the state. To find out a little bit more about these fascinating creatures and their impacts on habitats across the country, check out these resources:

2013 Bren School Tejon Ranch Wild Pig Project Page:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife Wild Pig Management Program Description Page:

Missisippi State University Wild Pig Info Site: