Wild Boars at Center of Local Controversy

Article excerpt

Ready or not, the Pennsylvania Game Commission suddenly finds itself in the pig business.

The state Supreme Court ruled last week that because wild boars - - which are not native to Pennsylvania -- are not legally classified as a game animal, they are a protected species. The ruling is the result of a lawsuit filed by Pennsylvania Legislative Animal Network board member Johnna Seeton to force the Game Commission to investigate alleged Game and Wildlife Code violations at the Tioga Boar Hunting Preserve.

"We reject the commission's attempt to identify wild boar as 'domestic' by reclassifying it without any authority, legal or taxonomical, as a member of the supposed 'pig family,' " wrote Justice Max Baer for the court's majority. "Thus, wild boar necessarily are 'wild animals' under the Game and Wildlife Code."

Essentially, that means the commission has to regulate the shooting of wild boars in some fashion, according to Game Commission documents.

"It may just be that the courts believe someone needs to regulate this," said Dan Hill, a Game Commission board member from Erie. "The question then is, if not us, who? This certainly opens the door to that debate."

It's a hot one, too. In the days since the ruling, commission offices have been "flooded" with calls from people wanting to know if it's still OK to shoot the pigs, said one agency source.

Wild hogs -- escapees from private hunting preserves -- have been taking up residence in the wild in various places across Pennsylvania. The southcentral portion of the state has been a hotbed for the hogs, but they're also surviving in places like Butler, Somerset and Cambria counties, too. They are considered a non-native invasive species, one that can do a lot of damage to the habitat needed by deer, bears and other desirable species to survive. …