MORAGA, Calif. — The residents of the San Francisco Bay Area go to great lengths to accommodate the wealth of wildlife around them.
A sign at a playground in Moraga, a 35-minute drive from San Francisco, advises parents that rattlesnakes are “important members of the natural community” and to give the snakes “respect.”
Across the Bay in the San Francisco suburb of Burlingame, an animal shelter has rescued a family of skunks from a construction hole, a chameleon from power lines and nursed back to health 100 baby squirrels that tumbled out of their nests after their trees got trimmed.
With the exception of the occasional aggressive coyote, the animals that roam the hills and gullies of the Bay Area — turkeys, mountain lions, deer, bobcats, foxes and the rest of a veritable Noah’s Ark — find themselves on somewhat laissez-faire terms with the humans around them.
military fighter jet was wrecked several decades ago after a collision with two wild pigs on a runway in Florida. Weighing hundreds of pounds, they can be extremely dangerous and in rare cases have attacked and killed humans.
“feral swine bomb,” the pigs are threatening states north and west. Some progress has been made: New York, New Jersey and Maine have eliminated their feral pig populations, according to Michael Marlow, the acting program manager of the federal government’s National Feral Swine Damage Management Program. But at least 30 states still have wild pig populations, he said.
In California, 56 of the state’s 58 counties have wild pigs. The swine are inflicting a mounting economic toll in Lafayette, a suburb in the East Bay, where the pig invasion seems most acute. Before the pandemic the city shelled out $110,000 when pigs, rooting for grubs, churned soccer and baseball fields like a rototiller. The Park and Recreation Department installed fences around the fields and keeps a trapper on contract to capture and kill the pigs. Recently neighbors have been waking up to find their lawns churned into clumpy heaps of sod and dirt.
The head of the department, Jonathan Katayanagi, said hikers have reported a few close calls with wild pigs, usually when off-leash dogs have chased after them. If confronted by angry hogs, people should stand on top of a car or shimmy up a tree, he recommends. “Pigs can’t climb,” he said.
Nearby, and more potentially serious, are the hundreds of pigs that have invaded the creek beds that feed into the San Leandro reservoir, which at certain times provides drinking water for Oakland, Piedmont, Alameda, Hayward and other East Bay cities.
Swine can harbor dozens of diseases including E. coli, leptospirosis, giardia, toxoplasmosis and salmonella. Officials are concerned that the water supplies could become contaminated.