Legends of Vashon Wild Boars of Vashon
Legends of Vashon, March 2024

Legends of Vashon Wild Boars of Vashon

As recounted to Tripper Harrison

If there aren’t any wild boars running the trails on Vashon right now, there used to be. Hogs have gone feral a lot more recently than you would guess, and they are much the same thing. One of them was named Piglet B, and he was mine. 

Piglet B got loose and avoided all attempts to catch him. We caught brief sights of him a few times down the long driveway, and as he got bigger, he grew wilder and faster. Bristles started forming down his back; he got more muscular and started growing tusks.

Wild boar herds are surprisingly close. My mom still lives up in the Olympics, where they are now officially invasive. They broke into her garden last fall and ate all her tulip bulbs, which she will never forgive. The Quinault Reservation started hunting their invader hogs down, and thinks they wiped a herd of them completely out, but they’re migrating in from Oregon. There is a whole lot of wilderness to go around in those mountains. 

In their defense, hogs have a lot of things in their favor, most of all their snouts, which are more like muscles they use like a shovel. It’s what they do. They turn up everything to get at roots, grubs, leaves, and whatever they might come across, eating it, living or not. You can turn that talent in your favor, as many farmers did, for example to remove stumps. If you put corn into a pipe underneath, or get it down in the stump, they’ll dig and gnaw until they get at it. 

The main farm idea is to get pigs to till up a field in sections, then come behind them with seeds and a rake. All you have to do is make a paddock, like with an electric fence, and wait for them to do their thing. After it’s churned, you move them to their next spot, put in your cover crops, shade peas, beans, nitrogen-fixers, barley and your wildflowers, and fold it back over. 

Pigs have some serious negatives. They’re smart, so you have to get a couple of them or they get depressed, and a depressed pig is hard to cheer up. They start to get stir crazy and more likely to turn on you. Pigs can bite and draw blood, and once they smell blood it’s game on. The old timers used to have a saying, “We ain’t had such excitement since the hogs et poor little Willie.” Which should make you wonder. 

When I was quite young and staying at my uncle’s house, I snuck out to wait for him while my aunt and older cousins fixed dinner. I climbed up and sat on the top rung of the fence, and when he drove up he got out and yelled at me to get the hell down from there. Being three or four years old, I ran crying into the house, and that was the only time he ever raised his voice to me. Later, he told me Blackie the sow was in that pen and that I must promise him not to go alone out there again, and to never, ever turn my back on a pig. 

When some American Guinea hog piglets came up for sale on Facebook, we drove over near Tahlequah and got a pair of shoats, weaned males about 3 months old. All went well, and for the time being, we put them into the chicken run, an anchor fence enclosure with a shelter. From the start, Piglet B was skittish, and at the first chance, he bolted out the gate rather than paying attention to his food. Piglet A, his brother, never wanted to leave. 

Piglet B made for the 75 or so acres of County land down the bluff adjoining our place, and his range was well over a quarter-mile square. He made some trips back up into our neighbors’ forests and to dig furrows into some of their lawns, which took a lot of work to put right. Bless their patience. Meanwhile, it was a constant battle of wits. We set out a raccoon trap, baited box traps with food, dug a Cambodian pig trap four feet deep with a false forest floor, hanging ripe fruit over it. None of which worked. Piglet B was sly and thriving without extra food.

Remember the corn? That’s what worked, plus some luck. Every day, I’d set out a small mound of corn for the little devil. The next morning, it would usually be gone, and I’d put another pile closer to the barn. Eventually, it got to be only 25 feet away, and I happened to be with our Goldendoodle at the curve when Piglet B showed up for his brunch. The Doodle gave chase, and Piglet B outran her for the only nearby safety, the barn. I walked over, locked the wild and wooly thing inside, and our months-long feral hog experience was over. 

The other recent case I know of was a friend with a 500-pound breeding sow. My cousins bought their piglets from her. One day, the sow simply disappeared. They searched high and low, but she has not been seen since. That’s her story. If you of a morning wake up and see some half-foot deep furrows in your lawn or come upon a tusked hog begging for apples and ice cream, it is not mine.

March 7, 2024

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