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Wild boar sightings in eastern Iowa raise concerns

COLUMBUS JUNCTION, Iowa (AP) --Reports of wild boar sightings in eastern Iowa are troubling to state officials, who worry the massive beasts will hog crops and farmland.

Officials also worry the wild pigs will pass diseases to the state's huge hog population.

Reports of the wild pigs, which can grow up to 300 pounds and sport curled tusks as a result of their eyeteeth not being trimmed, have come in at least four eastern Iowa counties in the past two years. Across the state line in northeast Missouri, 300 wild pigs have been reported in a 10-square-mile area.

It's troubling because the animals, usually found in southern states, can destroy crop fields and forests, and have no natural predator to stop their population from exploding.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture is working on a plan to deal with the problem, which officials believe has been caused by individuals illegally releasing them into the wild so they can be hunted.

"Ag has a big interest in this because of health concerns, such as the boars passing diseases on to hogs in the farming communities," said Dale Garner of the Department of Natural Resources, which is staying in touch with agriculture officials. "Iowa is the No. 1 hog state."

Other agricultural concerns about the wild pigs is that they'll damage cornfields before farmers can harvest their crop and destroy protected woodland.

"They can devastate a timber in not a lot of time," said Don Pfeiffer of the Brighton DNR wildlife office.

He confirmed boar sightings south of Columbus Junction and at Rome, west of Mount Pleasant in Henry County. The latter sighting included a sow that gave birth to a litter of seven piglets.

"The last we heard from that area was about two years ago, so who knows how many there could be now," Pfeifer said. "They can multiply rapidly; their reproduction potential is so great."

In Louis County, authorities said they have heard reports that many wild pigs were released in the area this spring.

"We haven't gotten any complaints yet, but there could be an influx this fall," warned Jason Schlutz of the Louisa County Sheriff's Department.

Authorities say the animals can be shot and killed any time they are found because there are no hunting regulations on them.

Garner said it is illegal to introduce the wild pigs into the state and anyone caught transporting them would face prosecution. Still, he said he understands why some people might be willing to take the risk.

"It's illegal to bring them into the state, but rules and regulations usually only work for those who obey them," he said. "Besides, they are good eatin'."

Date: 9/1/04


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