Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wild Pigs: Not Tough Enough to Face Ol’ King Coal

© By Albert A Rasch

In my ongoing operation against Mountain Top Removal I have uncovered another example of the wanton disregard for the environment that the mining companies have.

In Baiting up Hogs, I gave instruction on methods used for attracting wild pigs. Hunter Angler of Jake’s Outdoors, said that there where very few wild hogs in his region. I went to his web site and saw that he hails from West Virginia. Hell I thought, there’s got to be a mess of razorbacks tearing up the mountains out there. Boy howdy, was I ever wrong.

I wanted to speak with some authority about his area of the country, and in researching through the data to answer his question I naturally started by searching the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources web site.

“Hunters killed 7 wild boar during the 2004 season. Archery hunters took 4 and firearms hunters killed 3. The entire harvest came from the same general area in Logan County.”

Seven? Total? For the year? Are they kidding me? I’ve killed seven just walking in an afternoon. OK, maybe I didn’t kill seven, but I sure saw a lot more than seven. Either those West Virginia mountain boys are really bad hunters, or something else is going on.

Biologists do not believe that boar hunting contributed to the population decline. Past seasons have been short and hunter participation restricted by permits.”

Ok, maybe they are so good that they just don’t get a long enough season to put a dent in the population. But there’s been a population decline?

“Wildlife Resources biologists conducted an extensive survey in February 2004 to confirm the presence or absence of wild boar…The survey indicated a much reduced boar population of probably fewer than 50 animals.”

Holy smokes! Less than fifty animals! I have raised wild hogs and let me tell you that three little pigs can turn into thirty-eight in nothing flat. I’m not kidding. In less than one year I had more than forty pigs. But that’s another story in and of itself. How could an area of four counties in beautiful, rugged, bountiful West Virginia have only FIFTY wild pigs in it?

“The main reason for the decline of wild boar in the four southern counties of Boone, Logan, Raleigh and Wyoming is habitat destruction resulting in poor reproduction and survival. Specifically mountain top mining and logging have eliminated much of the once mature oak forest that was favored by the boar.”

So there you have it; mountain top removal and logging are the shameless destroyers and despoilers of the land. How could I have missed it?

“Impacts of coal mining in the boar area account for significant losses of habitat in Casey Creek, Sycamore Creek, Jigley Fork and Skin Poplar Fork. During the last 6 years, 1999 – 2004, there are 14,424 acres under coal mining permits in Boone County and 4,946 acres in Logan County (WV Department of Environmental Protection). Clearly much of the ideal oak forest habitat favored by the wild boar has disappeared.”

“In the 1980's and early 1990's much of the boar area was mature oak forest. Since then accelerated commercial logging removed vast tracts of mast producing trees in main Spruce-Laurel Creek, Sycamore Creek, Dennison Fork, Jigley Fork and Skin Poplar Fork. In the past more than 75% of the boar harvest came from these areas.”

You see, Ol’ King Coal sold off all the marketable lumber before sending in the cranes and dozers, and blowing off the tops of the mountains. They are obviously unashamed of their wholesale destruction and they won’t leave a potential revenue stream untouched either.

“The demise of the wild boar population in West Virginia is certainly highly correlated with the destruction of the mature oak forest habitat favored by the species.”

If you go to the article where I found this information, they also mention the relatively low birth rate of the European Wild Boar. It appears that the hogs in West Virginia were originally stocked from a commercial operation. I have trapped high percentage European Wild Boar hogs here, and I have to disagree with the WV biologists on this:

“These individuals undoubtedly came from a few animals in Germany and were said to have originated in the Ural Mountains of Russia. This pure strain of wild boar seems to be less prolific and more habitat specific than the typical wild hogs of the south. They are certainly poor pioneering species. Their poor adaptability may in part be a result of a genetic bottleneck and the lack of genetic diversity in the population.”

I doubt the genetic bottle neck theory. Unless there was a specific set of negative genetic variables, it is unlikely that such a scenario occurred. I started with three pigs, two females and a male, brother and sisters, which reproduced at an alarming rate, with great viability in their offspring. I caught several high percentage European Wild Boars, and when I bred and crossbred them they demonstrated high fecundity and viability. So again, I’m not so sure that biological issues are the culprit to any great degree.

But, I will SHOUT LOUD AND CLEAR that Ol’ King Coal and mountain top removal are the main perpetrator of the demise of the wild hogs of West Virginia. The callus and reckless disregard for the environment and the people of the Appalachian regions shown by the mining companies is appalling. As I continue to work on this issue I beg you to frequent all of the hunting and fishing forums and tell everyone about the plight of the Appalachian Mountains. Remember that though it might not be in your backyard, something very much like it is probably happening somewhere nearby! When we are finished with Big Coal we’ll be coming to your backyard to help.

Here is a link to get you started: Stop MTR is Denny's blog and in my opinion probably the best center for information on the destruction of the Appalachia.

As an outdoorsman, fisherman, and hunter I am aghast at the result of this abuse of the public trust. Though I am a capitalist through and through, and have absolutely no interest in any government intervention in my daily life, I am completely against this sort of wanton destruction of what should be in the public domain, though owned by private entities. The effects of mountain top removal are so widespread, that regardless of the specific location of destruction, the need for public intervention is apparent. For the coal companies to use an interpretation of the law to justify this abuse is not only unethical but immoral.

Among my current projects, I am working with my local elementary school trying to partner them up with the Marsh Fork Elementary School near Sundial, West Virginia. As soon as I have it all set up, I am having the local news paper do a write up on it. I will be writing a piece on this endeavor as soon as I have it put together. When I finish that, I am going to try to interest the High School to do the same. I am going to present it as older brothers and sisters coming to the rescue of their little siblings. Another idea I have for kids is a letter writing campaign, where I’ll prepare sample letters for them and then allow them to express how they feel about the issue in their own words. Another is a lollipop or Tootsie Roll sale with the proceeds to go to Marsh Fork; these are the kind of things that involved kids like to do.

That’s the shout out for this week! I’ve had one of those months that everyone talks about. Hopefully April will be a bit less hectic! Then again that’s what I said about February…

Albert A Rasch
The Hunt Continues…


Anonymous said...

What a great post and an interesting look at just one aspect of what MTR can do. Keep it up, Albert. You're putting really good stuff out there.

denny said...

I'm going to be honest - I got chills from reading this.

You took it to a level I didn't even consider. This inspires me for another post because there are some endangered plant species affected as well - one of those being Ginseng.

Great ideas for the school. I'm going to be sending people to your site that are directly involved with the fight for the kids. Thank you.

Albert A Rasch said...

The information is out there. We just have to find it and bring it to light. I did read somewhere about the ginseng being lost, I'll have to look for it. I bet you that there are dozens of animals, and hundreds of plant species that depend on the Appalachian eco-system for survival. I'm thinking fox squirrels for one, and I'm sure I'll figure out some others before long.


Editor said...

that is a very strange post and some strange info to go with it. I do not believe half of it but habitat destruction does affect game animals to move on to different areas.
PS. if they need some hogs, I will be glad to send them mine.

Albert A Rasch said...

Will you please embellish on your comment. What exactly don't you believe? I would like to respond.

Albert A Rasch

Anonymous said...

If you are a through and through capitalist that wants no government intervention whatsoever, how do you propose stopping MTR? Do you think the Good Witch of the West will drop by and wave her wand and stop Big Energy from ripping the mountains apart? 'Cause they ain't gonna stop until someone bigger than they are makes them! And the only thing bigger than Big Energy is Big Government. And these days it's pretty damn hard to tell them apart. So I'd say your program to save habitat is basically screwed from the get.

Albert A Rasch said...


We, as a people, have been incredibly short sighted. We, as the People of the greatest Nation on the face of this earth, need to stop being so short sighted.

Only through a concerted effort by "We the People" can this type of problem be resolved.

I am pretty disciplined. I work hard, spend time with my children teaching them, not only about the great outdoors, but history, politics, geography, biology, math, philosophy, the classics, (We're actually starting Beowulf now.), in general about the world that they are going to inherit from me.

They are smart enough to review the facts and make up their own minds. Both of them agree that MTR must be stopped. That's two more than there were a month ago. Now what I am getting at is that when each of us show two people the need to make a change, and the understanding grows geometrically, there will come a point where the change will be made.

It's as easy as writing your congressmen to pass the Clean Water Act.

Albert A Rasch

Anonymous said...

"Real power is not in our poliical systems. It's in the structures that control capital; it's in the international structures; it's in the hands of a very few, and it's becoming more concentrated every day." quoted from an article in Sun magazine, by Constance Rice(diametrically opposed cousin to the more famous Rice). This quote pretty much sums up what I believe and reflects the world we live in. A perfect example would be the on-going Iraq war and the ever increasing price of fuel, both of which are not supported by the majority of Americans. So much for letters to Congressmen. I'm all for education but education and letter writing are not going to produce the changes will evenly benefit the majority of American citizens. The ever-smaller circle of folks that control this world are not going to give up any amount of control or fairly share the power and wealth until they are forced to do so.

Anonymous said...

Truth is, Albert's only talking about boar populations. If you take a closer look, the wildlife situation in the 4 counties in West By-God where boar hunting is legal (Boone, Logan, Raleigh & Wyoming) and where the heaviest MTR/mining takes place is quite a bit worse than what he addresses. In two of those counties (Logan & Wyoming), there is NO open firearms season on deer. For the other two (Raleigh & Boone), the deer season is buck-only and the total combined deer take for all seasons in 2007 was only 1314 and 780 animals respectively (as compared with 3701 deer in Hampshire County where I hunt, and 4338 in Hardy County directly to the south of me). Turkey harvests in these counties are also among the lowest in the state. Although I'm not a native of the state, I've owned property and hunted in West Virginia for over 20 years. And I feel that John Denver couldn't have chosen better words than "Almost Heaven" to describe that beautiful state. But when you look at those 4 counties where MTR/mining occurs mosts and you compare that to the game situations in the same areas, well, it doesn't take much to put 2 and 2 together. Thank goodness the rest of West Virginia is still an outdoorsman's paradise.

To "Editor": If you don't believe that such a practice exists in West Virginia, visit to see the impact. Not a pretty sight.