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Archive for Saturday, February 21, 2004

Pack of wild pigs damages farms, attracts hunters

February 21, 2004

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— Sportsmen tired of traditional game like pheasants or deer are invading Sumner County to try tracking down something a bit more elusive -- a pack of wild pigs.

The wild hogs are rooting up yards, tearing up crops and driving dogs crazy. Growing reports about the pack are also drawing the unwanted hunters into the county.

Complaints of trespassers hoping to bag a wild boar have spiked as reports of the pack spread. Local farmers said they had been inundated with phone calls from people looking to hunt the animals.

No one is really sure where the Sumner County pack of hogs originated, although farmers who have seen them said they look like domesticated pigs that have gone wild.

"I hunt and fish -- and I drive down to Texas to hunt the darn things -- and here they are in my back yard and I didn't know that," said Sumner County Sheriff Gerald Gilkey.

Since then the sheriff has spotted the pack about three times, although the most he has seen in a pack are 15 or 20 animals. They ranged in size from little piglets to a 600-pound boar he shot in December.

"I completely was not expecting that," Gilkey said. "I was out hunting deer and up walks this great big pig. I said, 'What the heck.'"

Gilkey smoked his unexpected kill -- which eventually wound up as the featured menu item at a big feed in the sheriff's office.

His office has gotten reports of the animals ranging from six miles south to about 12 miles north of Wellington, a 30- to 40-square-mile area around this south-central Kansas city.

The pack was last spotted near Belle Plaine, where U.S. Highway 81 and Kansas Highway 55 split.

Other wild herds have been reported near Fort Riley, Arkansas City and Medicine Lodge, Gilkey said.

Bernard Rausch, a Wellington farmer and owner of Rausch Feed in Belle Plaine, said he saw the three pigs his neighbor shot after they damaged his neighbor's farm. Some hunters have even come up with hunting dogs to find them.

"They are there -- it is a true story," Rausch said. "It is kind of comical. It just gives them an added sport."

Another Wellington farmer, Melvin Ast, has not had the wild pigs bother any of his crops, but he said some neighboring farms had suffered damage to milo fields. He said he had seen about 30 pigs in a pack.

"They are not a mean pig yet. I've seen them going across the road. You can tell they are domestic pigs, not real wild boars," Ast said.

Ast figured the pigs where turned lose when hog prices crashed a few years back. The animals have since had their own babies and gone wild trying to survive.

Gilkey said one of his buddies also shot a 70-pound pig.

"We are trying to do our part to help local farmers out to keep them off their property -- and provide a little entertainment for us," Gilkey said.

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