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  Sierra Magazine
  March/April 2007
Table of Contents
 
  WILD JOURNEYS:
The End of the World
The Boar Wars
At Home in the Wild
Landscape Lexicon
Lifetimes With Fire
 
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Decoder: Endangered Species
 
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Sierra Magazine
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The Boar Wars
Who you gonna call when feral pigs trample paradise?
by Daniel Duane
March/April 2007

(page 3 of 3)

AS HOLTER ROUSED FROM HIS NAP and we pulled on our muddy shoes to get that goat, I realized I'd always accepted, at least in principle, that beef eaters ought to try killing and butchering a cow at least once. I'd also accepted that no meat eater should look askance at hunters, and it still struck me as reasonable that environmentalists advocating non-native-species eradication should be willing to soil their own hands by helping out. But as Holter and I pushed into a thicket of ten-foot cane grass sharp enough to cut skin and so dense I couldn't see more than a few feet in front of me, I wondered if I'd given enough thought to what I was getting involved in. I was still wondering when Holter, who was 20 feet to my left, said softly, "Hey Dan, did you just step on a log?"

"What?" I couldn't even see Holter just then.

"Did you step on a log? I heard a noise right in front of me."

"Lance, I did not step on a log."

"You're sure."

"I'm sure."

"Then there's a pig two feet in front of me."

The cane grass exploded with a frantic crashing and rushing sound as many hundreds of pounds of hard, adrenalized flesh charged away from Holter and directly toward me. I still had no idea what it was and no clue what to do, and because I didn't know my way around a gun I found myself frantically trying to chamber a shell, but before I could, I saw a smallish pig bolt past my shoes like a jungle torpedo. A bigger one came next, perhaps a hundred pounds, and then just as I released the safety and reached for the trigger a much, much bigger hog went roaring past my shins in a hell-for-leather sprint. Holding the rifle at my hips like a sawed-off shotgun, I swung the barrel after a fourth pig's hindquarters but couldn't quite shoot--and then the grass went silent.

Knowing the hogs were all within ten feet of me and yet absolutely invisible, and remembering a male hog's skull I'd once seen and its sharp and brutal tusks, I stood stock-still trying to make a decision. The rifle, I decided, would be useless if I stumbled over those varmints and found one gashing my leg. Move number one, therefore, was clearly to take that stupid bullet out of the chamber so I didn't shoot myself, or Holter, or Kiko. But what about my knife? It was a razor-sharp Gerber with a four-inch folding blade, and I had it in my front pocket. Would I really be able to grab the thing while facedown in the dirt getting mauled by a pack of angry pigs? Would my back pocket be any better? Opening the blade, I put it between my teeth and then decided that was an even dumber idea, a guaranteed way to cut my face to ribbons. The only sane option, I realized, was to hold the folded knife in my teeth, use the rifle butt as a blunt machete, and get the heck out of there as fast as I could. Which I did.

In my first moment of truth as a hunter, I chose retreat. And I'm happy about it. It means that my first kill didn't come in the form of a wild, half-aimed hip-shot at a sprinting hog in cover so dense that even if I'd hit the beast instead of Holter, I probably would've just wounded it. Following a hurt boar into some impossible warren of underbrush was absolutely nothing I wanted any part of.

I still hope the natural balance of the local ecosystem can be restored. And I admire the skilled hunters who are working to get the invaders off the island. But for now, they'll have to do it without my help--and I'll have to do without the wild, mango-fed pork of my dreams.

Daniel Duane is a frequent contributor to Sierra. His most recent story was "Underwater Ups and Downs" (March/April 2006), on California's abalone fishery.

ON THE WEB For more information on native Hawaiian ecosystems, go to rarehawaii.org.


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