Q: Our class is working on invasive species and would really appreciate it if you could help us with one question. How does the California Department of Fish & Game help with the control of feral pigs? If you could email us back the answer, we would greatly appreciate it. (The Alien Hunters or Pam K.)

A: It is great to hear from young citizens who are interested in wildlife issues and are actively seeking to educate themselves about these topics! According to DFG Statewide Wild Pig Program coordinator Marc Kenyon, the California Legislature in 1957 classified the wild pig as a game mammal, which then allowed the department to manage them as wildlife and regulate their harvest.

The department is the agency with responsibility over game animals in the state, and because this classification is in statute, only legislative action could change it. However, the California Fish and Game Commission, a separate entity, has recognized that damage from wild pigs does occur, and to that end, a policy has been put into effect that states:

“The wild pig population of the state must be controlled to minimize the threat of increasing damage to California’s native plant and animals, to agricultural operations and to park and recreational activities from the foraging habits of the animals. Consistent with state law and regulations, the department will prepare and recommend to the commission regulations which enhance recreational hunting and facilitate the issuing of depredation permits and/or other legally available means to alleviate this problem.”

Please visit the Fish and Game Commission’s website to understand the difference between the Department of Fish & Game and the Fish and Game Commission.

Similar to the commission, the department works to minimize the impacts pigs cause. To achieve this, we work with private citizens, other government organizations and natural resources conservation partners to, among other things: 1) curtail the spread of wild pigs; 2) protect agricultural, archaeological and environmental resources and private property from damage caused by wild pigs; and 3) facilitate the removal of pigs causing damage.

To curtail the spread of wild pigs, our wardens enforce laws that restrict the intentional movement of wild pigs from one area to another. We also enlist the help of sport hunters. By educating hunters about the locations of pigs in the state, we feel that we can direct hunters to areas of the state that either have new populations of pigs or serve as ‘source populations.’

To protect our state’s precious resources and private property, we have worked with conservation partners and private landowners alike to facilitate the construction of wildlife-friendly but pig-resistant fences to exclude pigs from certain areas. For example, we are working with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to construct a fence that will exclude pigs from newly restored riparian habitat in Colusa County.

The department may issue “depredation” permits to authorize the permit holder to use lethal control methods to reduce the number of wild pigs on their property and in turn reduce the amount of damage caused. The department encourages property owners to allow sport hunters to hunt wild pigs.

Based on surveys of sport hunters and returned sport hunting wild pig tags, the department believes that 5,000 to 10,000 wild pigs are killed each year by sport hunters. Over the last 10 years, an average of 55,062 wild pig tags have been sold each year. This has resulted in average revenue each year of nearly $800,000, which helps to fund our management activities.

As you can see, the Legislature, the Fish and Game Commission and the Department of Fish & Game are dedicated to managing wild pigs to reduce their spread and the damage they cause. We rely on our lawmakers to craft intelligent laws, our biologists to understand the species, and our wardens to catch the law breakers. We all work as one unit to control wild pigs.

Crab Hawk Traps

Q: I bought a “crab hawk-like” castable crab trap at a major sporting goods store in Northern California. Can I use this in San Francisco Bay or in the ocean? I have used this same trap in Washington state. (Cris C.)

A: No, crab hawk traps are not legal to use in California. For crab regulations, please check the crustaceans section of the current Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet, available wherever sport fishing licenses are sold, at your local DFG office, and online by clicking here.

— Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish & Game. She can be reached at cwilson@dfg.ca.gov.