Marauding feral pigs have blighted a central suburb in New Zealand’s capital, killing kid goats at an urban farm, intimidating dogs and turning up in residents’ gardens.
The owners of a goat milk farm in the hills of the suburb of Brooklyn, 10 minutes from the centre of Wellington, has lost about 60 kid goats to pigs in the past few months. Often, all that is left of them are gnawed bone fragments and parts of the hooves or head.
“It’s a murder scene,” said Naomi Steenkamp, the farm’s co-owner. “If they find something they like eating, and it is a free feed – like a newborn kid – they are going to keep coming back.”
Wellington City Council has confirmed that the feral pig population in the suburb of Brooklyn – which backs on to farmland and re-generating bush with walking tracks – has been expanding and causing problems for locals.
New Zealand’s feral pig population descended from pigs brought out on colonial ships in the late 1700s. They are now well established across about roughly a third of the country and are known to damage native ecosystems and pastures, kill newborn animals such as lambs and carry bovine tuberculosis.
Last month, Steenkamp’s husband, Frans, shot and killed a boar that broke through their fence and came within 20 metres of their house. The 120kg animal was the largest they had come across in their five years of farming.
“You do wonder if it is a ticking time bomb,” she said, adding that after she posted a photo of the dead pig to social media, many other locals contacted her with their own experiences.
“It was crazy how many people came out of the woodwork saying that they had pigs in their garden, pigs bailing up their dogs,” she said. “One guy was feeding them and thought it was pretty cool, until it charged him.”
Aside from wanting to protect her own livelihood, Steenkamp is desperate to see the pigs go, so that native bush can regenerate. “I want kiwi in my backyard eventually …but we need to get on top of pigs – it is an isolated pocket that has got out of control.”
It was difficult to put precise numbers on how many pigs were running wild in the area, but “there has clearly been an upsurge”, said Richard Maclean, the council’s spokesperson.
“Given that we’re now getting complaints about pigs appearing in backyards, that gives an indication that the population must be burgeoning,” he said.
“People tend to think of Wellington city as this pristine place where you couldn’t possibly have pigs or goats,” Maclean said, but the wild animals were hindering the council’s efforts to regenerate native bush and bring back bird-life.
The council contracts a hunter to regularly cull pests in the hills around Brooklyn, but the combination of public and privately owned land makes it difficult for pest control to be thorough in their work.
“He does what he can, and he keeps the numbers down,” Maclean said. “But you can’t go on to private land without permissions from the owner, so it is hard to control what is happening there.”
There was a long history of feral pigs in the area, Maclean said, adding that people might be stocking the area for hunting purposes.
“It is a bit of a wild scene down there. But [we don’t] want people to suddenly think they can get in there and start helping out, taking in guns and dogs … We want to avoid total mayhem and conflict and keep everyone safe.”