A seemingly cute pig on the run is the talk of Gloucester County. The porcine fugitive, purchased to be an unofficial mascot for Kingsway Regional High School and dubbed Dubbs, even has a Facebook page dedicated to his safe return
But there is a serious side to the story.
Escaped pigs become wild hogs and in the United States they cause an estimated $1.5 billion a year in damage, much of it to agriculture.
Pigs are not native to this country and when they escape or are let go and become wild, they are considered an invasive species.
In the wild, they transform into hairy hulks and in time grow fangs.
There are an estimated 5 million feral hogs in 44 states, including Pennsylvania. New Jersey’s biggest concentration of wild pigs appears to be in Gloucester County.
These aggressive outlaw swine root up native grasses and plants, destroy habitat for native creatures and push out other wildlife as they fight for territory.
Wild pigs have already been blamed for turning some vernal pools in Gloucester County into wallows, destroying habitat for native amphibians and reptiles.
Larry Herrighty, assistant director of operations at the state Division of Fish and Wildlife, said the feral pig population in Gloucester County is estimated to be less than 100. He said the agency is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on measures to controld and reduce the number of hogs in the wild.
One measure in recent years has been to allow hunters in only two zones in the state - both in Gloucester County - to also kill pigs during the deer season. There is no bag limit.
Let’s hope Dubbs is in a safe place on Sept. 28. That's when the bow deer season begins.