By Ray Sanchez
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wild boars are invading the farms of central New York state, attacking livestock, killing family pets and chasing people, experts warned on Friday.
The feral swine are a non-native species suspected of escaping from game farms. As many as a couple of hundred are roaming the state, said Paul Curtis, a natural resources professor at Cornell University in Ithaca.
While an exact picture of the wild boar population in New York State is unclear, a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said the swine were successfully breeding in the three counties and producing litters averaging four to six piglets.
"We've shot probably 15 to 20 of them in the last three years," said Peter Andersen, a farmer in Long Eddy in Sullivan County.
"We've shot them right square in the head and the bullet will glance off and they'll get up and go. Their skulls are so thick in the front, if you don't happen to hit it at a perfect 90 degrees, with the way their heads have that kind of curved shape, the bullet will glance right off," he added.
Armed with a $230,000 grant from the Invasive Species Council of New York, the USDA last year sought to control the growing wild boar problem.
According to a USDA report, 27 of the animals were trapped or shot and tested for diseases.
"In the absence of aggressive professional management, these populations will likely continue their expansion and become entrenched in New York State with potentially devastating consequences to natural resources, agriculture, and human health and safety," according to the report.
There have been no reports of feral swine attacks on humans but the animals can be aggressive, experts said.
USDA biologist Justin Gansowski said the swine have reportedly attacked livestock, killed a Labrador retriever and chased people in New York state.
"There's always the potential for attacks on people," said Curtis.
Gansowski said a lack of funding was the biggest obstacle to preventing the population from exploding.
"There needs to be more funding," he said. "That's currently why we only have one person, which is me. With the explosive nature of the feral swine population, our time frame to do something is now."
Andersen agreed that additional funding was needed and added that is losing the battle against the husky invaders.
Desperate residents have formed informal networks to report sightings and call rifle owners to eliminate the swine.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)