Feral Pigs Are Increasingly Running Wild In Some Oahu Neighborhoods – Honolulu Civil Beat

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As roving herds of feral pigs get bigger and more intimidating, grunting and rooting in backyards island-wide, many people living in Oahu’s forested valleys are starting to feel the menace.

Martha Noyes, 73, of Pacific Heights, recently left her purchases in the car overnight rather than venture outside in the dark while a herd of pigs — as many as 20 at a time, some weighing 150 pounds or more — snorted and lumbered across her lawn.

“A couple of times I have felt genuinely threatened,” she said recently. “They don’t like it when we come outside. Sometimes I can’t get to my car.”

Martha Noyes and her dog Bubbles are seen through a tunnel feral pigs created into her Pacific Heights yard. Noyes said she is worried her dog could be injured by wild pigs. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2024)

Kaui Lucas, who lives in the Aina Haina area, said she has been trapped in her car when large numbers of pigs surrounded her parking space, forcing her to remain inside the vehicle until the herd moved on. Once out of her car, she has found them impossible to shoo away, she said.

“They are astonishingly brazen, calmly munching tender plants while I yell and bang pots to drive them away,” she wrote.

In the past few years, people who live in urban residential areas in Honolulu, including Tantalus, Palolo, Manoa and Nuuanu, have grown more accustomed to feral pigs coming down from the mountainous forests surrounding their homes, foraging for food.

The piglets are cute and many people view the packs with interest, amusement or affection. Animal lovers defend and try to protect them and often protest when others propose catching them and culling the herds.

“A few people don’t like trapping,” said Patrick Smith, chairman of the Nuuanu/Punchbowl Neighborhood Board. “Some deem it inhumane.”

Feral pigs run alongside a Pacific Heights roadway. Residents and wildlife officials say they have increasingly become a traffic hazard. (Provided: Pacific Heights Community Association)

But despite the controversy over how to cope with the problem, a growing number of people say they are beginning to feel that it is only a matter of time until someone gets hurt in a pig attack.

“They are very dangerous, especially the mama pigs with the keikis; they protect the babies,” said Roy Kainoa, president of the Pig Hunters Association of Oahu. “They might seem friendly but at that time, they are not friendly.”

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Residents around the island find they are coping with the pig population increase pretty much on their own.

“There is no program for any eradication,” said Honolulu City Council member Calvin Say.

Ian Scheuring, a spokesman for Mayor Rick Blangiardi, said city animal control ordinances do not address feral pigs.

Instead, residents are typically referred to the Pig Hunters Association. The volunteer-run organization has become the primary source of information on the evolving situation on Oahu. They do not charge for their services but accept donations for doing so, Kainoa said.

Some city and state officials said they plan to begin more closely coordinating with the pig hunter group.

Kathleen Pahinui, a spokeswoman for the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, whose lands are believed to harbor large numbers of pigs, said she will be meeting soon with Kainoa to find ways to boost collaboration.

“We are well aware of the problems,” she said. “We have issues ourselves.”

Foraging Herds Expand Their Territory

Nobody seems sure why the pig population has shot up so quickly and in so many places.

Some think dry weather at higher elevations has caused pigs to forage farther afield. Others think that people in residential neighborhoods began feeding pigs during the Covid-19 shutdown, which attracted more of them to affluent urban suburbs.

Others blame restrictive state hunting laws that make it more difficult for hunters to access the public lands and large privately owned tracts where pigs are roaming freely. City dwellers often look down on sport hunting and seek to discourage it.

Residents of Pacific Heights were shocked by the extent of the porcine intrusion this summer. Dozens of pigs began descending from the forested slopes into their yards and driveways.

Feral pigs are foraging in neighborhood gardens, and longtime residents of forest-adjacent areas say it’s been more common this summer. (Provided: Pacific Heights Community Association)

“I’ve been here 40 years and I have never seen herds like this running around,” said Stanford Masui, president of the Pacific Heights Community Association. Neighbors shared photos of what was happening on their Facebook page, with one woman reporting she had a sow and 10 piglets in her yard.

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Pacific Heights residents told him they were growing scared of the animals and had changed their routines to avoid contact with the pigs, Masui said.

Their presence is also being felt in other Oahu neighborhoods.

Lisa Aki Martin of Pearl City described herds of pigs, including a 300-pound sow, sauntering through the townhouse community where she lived. “We never knew what they would do. They are wild. They could attack us at any time.”

Attacks are rare and usually not fatal but wild pig populations are rising worldwide amid a decline in natural predators and urban encroachment on habitats. In the United States, there are now some 6 million feral pigs in 35 states, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In December 2021, a surfer off Kaena Point told reporters at KITV that she was attacked by a pig that she believed had somehow been swept out to sea. She was uninjured but the pig took a bite out of her surfboard, she said.

Feral pigs roam the Pacific Heights neighborhood as seen during the day Monday, July 31, 2024, in Honolulu. The wild pigs scare the homeowners who take refuge in their homes at night. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2024)
A feral pig trapped by homeowners in a Pacific Heights garden. (Provided: Pacific Heights Community Association)

Porcine Traffic Hazard

On at least one night, Masui said, a cluster of about 10 pigs were running up Pacific Heights Road, a serpentine throughway noted for its steep drop-offs and hairpin turns.

Residents said they feared they might strike a pig or cause a car accident swerving to miss one.

Pigs roaming on highways pose a risk to drivers, said Jason Misaki, Oahu wildlife program manager for the state Department of Forestry and Wildlife.

“It’s the most major hazard” caused by pigs at this time, Misaki said. “It’s a common thing for feral animals to get into roads and cause accidents.”

Masui worried that “if one person panicked” when he or she encountered a pig on the road, it could lead to deaths.

Concerned that his neighbors were at risk, Masui decided to call a community meeting on July 8 to map out a strategy to cope with the influx. He invited a group of pig hunters to join area residents to talk about making plans to rid the neighborhood of the pigs.

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About a dozen residents matched by the same number of hunters met at the Pacific Heights Pumping Station.

Feral Pigs Are Increasingly Running Wild In Some Oahu Neighborhoods - Honolulu Civil Beat
Feral pigs roam the Pacific Heights neighborhood during the day and residents say that they have sometimes needed to take refuge in their homes at night. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2024)

Kainoa, of the Pig Hunters Association, told them his members use traps, snares, bow and arrows, dogs, knives and guns if necessary to remove pigs.

“It all depends on what the homeowner wants and how quickly they want the pigs out,” he said in an interview.

Over the next couple of weeks, the hunters captured 24 pigs of varying sizes in Pacific Heights. They carted some away and killed some others, giving the community notable relief and reducing the number substantially, Masui said.

“The pig hunters take them alive if they can and use them for food,” he said. “People up here would probably never eat wild pig, I guarantee you that, but the hunters have people who know how to slaughter and cook them.”

Noyes said she was confident Pacific Heights residents had done the right thing.

“It will get worse if we don’t manage them now,” she said. “That means culling even the littlest ones.”

Misaki, of DOFAW, said that he is in regular contact with pig hunters and is mediating for improved access for them on government lands not controlled by his agency and on tracts owned by large private landowners. The goal, he said, is to try to reduce the number of large herds moving back and forth from undeveloped areas to family homes.

On lands managed by state agencies, meanwhile, he is working to “give them as much access as we can,” he said.

“Hawaii Grown” is funded in part by grants from Ulupono Fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation and the Frost Family Foundation.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>