County gives approval to shoot feral pigs
August 20, 2014County employees and contractors now have permission to shoot feral pigs in county parks.
The first reading and introduction of the ordinance was approved on a 5-0 San Diego County Board of Supervisors vote July 30. A 5-0 vote Aug. 6 approved the second reading and adoption. The ordinance will take effect Sept. 5, although memorandums of understanding authorized during the July 30 vote may have later implementation timeframes.
"They've been a big problem in the region and it's high time that we get this problem under control before they spread into other areas," said Supervisor Dianne Jacob.
Feral pigs, which are not native to San Diego County and are thus an invasive species, first appeared in the county in 2008.
"They can proliferate at a rapid rate," said county Department of Parks and Recreation district manager Scott Hoover. "They can cause significant impacts and can spread disease."
The environmental damage feral pigs can cause includes rooting and wallowing. Significant damage has occurred at and near Lake Morena County Park, and feral pigs have been sighted as far north as the Lake Henshaw area, on state parkland on Palomar Mountain, and near the San Luis Rey River in Bonsall.
"These pigs have destroyed a lot of property," said Supervisor Bill Horn.
The feral pigs can endanger animal health as well as human public health.
"It's not only an environmental issue in my mind, it's a public safety issue," said Supervisor Dave Roberts.
The San Diego Feral Pig Working Group was created in 2010 and researched effective methods for management and control while also conducting distribution surveys. The working group included county departments, the city of San Diego, state and Federal agencies, water districts with reservoirs, and tribal governments.
"It's been quite a large working group," Jacob said.
Prior to the supervisors' July 30 and Aug. 6 votes, the only exceptions to the prohibition of firearms in a county park were for antique firearms using blank ammunition to be carried and discharged during historical re-enactments and for an organized juniors-only turkey hunt at Santa Ysabel East Preserve. (The turkey hunt is also an exception to the prohibition against arrow-shooting bows or crossbows in county parks, as are historical re-enactments and designated youth group archery practice areas.) The feral pig ordinance allows possession and use of a firearm to control an invasive non-native animal in a county park determined by the director of the Department of Parks and Recreation to be causing significant damage to the environment. The authorization may include conditions to ensure public safety including specification of the type of firearm allowed, specific times allowed, and area limits.
The change does not allow hunting in county parks by the general public but allows qualified organizations or individuals to assist in the control of the non-native species. The authorization must include conditions to protect significant environmental plant or animal resources in the area.
The statute prohibiting firearms in county parks also had not previously specified an exemption for law enforcement officers or other government employees who were acting within the course and scope of their employment. The new exemption covers any peace officer as defined by state law (including animal control officers), any Federal law enforcement officer (including U.S. Customs or U.S. Border Patrol officers), or any other governmental employee or agent authorized to carry a firearm.
County code prohibits the discharge of a firearm, other than in defense of a person, within 150 yards of any occupied building unless the shooter is the property owner or has the permission of the owner. The exemption previously granted to the junior turkey hunt was extended to feral pig control and other on-duty government agents.
One of the memorandums of understanding approved July 30 covers funding and other roles while the second MOU outlines the process for controlling feral pigs. The second MOU includes recognition of the need for depredation permits and obligates the California Department of Fish and Game to process those permit applications promptly.
"Action will be forthcoming soon," said Terri Stewart, the environmental program manager for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.