CONCORD -- A few scattered reports of wild pigs in Lewis County have filtered in to Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Officer Cory Ellis since September, he said.
However, Ellis said it was only recently that hard proof of the existence of the pigs showed up in the form of photographs taken by Tollesboro resident Andrew Sauley.
It was about three weeks ago that Sauley was invited to a friend's farm to hunt the pigs which had been tearing up the corn. Sauley was joined in the hunt by his friend, Tommy Walker.
The pigs have been caught on a trail camera and Sauley has photos of the damage they have caused. There is one "huge boar" weighing between 350 and 450 pounds, Sauley estimated. Also in the area is a sow as large or larger than the boar and Sauley said it had five babies with it when he saw it.
Most of the hunting took place in the morning or evening, though Sauley said he stayed out an entire day one time waiting to catch sight of the wild pigs. Only once did he actually see pigs, but they were too far away to shoot.
"They remind me of a bobcat," Sauley said. "You know they are there, but you just can't see them."
When hunting proved ineffective, Sauley said he set a corral trap as well as snares for the pigs -- after getting Ellis' stamp of approval to set the traps. Ellis said Fish and Wildlife biologists have also set a corral trap in the area because the pigs are deemed nuisances. Sauley said a pig was caught in one of his snares Thursday night but managed to break out. Friday, he was working on building a better one.
Ellis said the pigs are not native to the area and the one or more pigs known to be in the Concord area have just "popped up out of nowhere."
"They're a nuisance, a big nuisance," Ellis said, adding the pigs can "absolutely" damage corns and other crops.
Wild pigs can be of two types. Ellis said domestic pigs can turn feral in a matter of months. However, from the photographs, Ellis said these animals appear not to be of the domestic-turned-feral variety but genuine wild hogs.
Where the pigs came from is questionable.
A June press release from the Fish and Wildlife department reported two men had pleaded guilty to bringing wild pigs into Kentucky and releasing them, which is prohibited by state law.
Ellis said the area where those pigs were released is not near Lewis County and there have been no reports of wild pigs in the area between, but could not rule out migration as a way the pigs came to the area.
Also possible, Ellis said, is that someone else brought the pigs into the area and set them loose.
Fish and Wildlife biologists have indicated if a pig is caught it may be possible to match the DNA of the pigs here with those found elsewhere in Kentucky as well as the pigs out west.
According to the press release, the presence of wild pigs is disturbing because they can carry a host of diseases that can infect livestock, pets and even people. The pigs have incredible reproductive rates and destroy habitats as well as compete with native wildlife for food, according to the release.
Ellis said anyone with a hunting license can shoot the pigs if they see them. Any pigs trapped by Fish and Wildlife officials will be euthanized and tested for diseases, Ellis said.
Ellis also encouraged anyone who has seen a pig, or evidence of a pig, to contact him.
"We want to know about it," he said.
People should look for corn stalks broken off about knee-high where the pigs will typically bite them as well as "mud rubs" on trees, also about knee high to determine if wild pigs are in the area.
Contact Ellis by calling 375-5309 or email email@example.com.