by BRAD ROLLINS
Accused of introducing feral pigs to Wisconsin six years ago, a San Marcos man is at the center of the state’s fight against the rapid spread of the destructive invasive species.
According to the Wisconsin attorney general, Robert Scott Johnson in February 2002 drove a trailer of 31 feral pigs from Texas and released them in Crawford County near the Hard Rock Elk Farm he owned at the time. The animals have since established populations in at least a dozen Wisconsin counties, prosecutors allege, although published reports differ on how long feral pigs have inhabited parts of the state.
Whatever their origins in the Badger State, feral pigs have caused a near-panic from the state’s Natural Resources department and caused one state representative to call on game officials there to put the invasion at “the top of Wisconsin’s priority list.”
“They make it look like a plow is an effective tool also,” Bill Howe, who leads a local conservation group, told the LaCrosse Tribune in a 2004 story. “They turn up a lot of soil. They make it look like freshly tilled ground.”
Johnson, who uses a San Marcos post office box address in court filings, could not be reached for comment. His trial began Sept. 5 but was postponed until Oct. 24 because a game warden was unable to testify. If convicted, he could be fined up to $31,000 under a state law that makes it illegal to release animals to the wild without a permit.
Feral pigs have been wrecking environmental and agricultural damage in Texas for decades and as many as two million of them are thought to live across all 254 counties. Texas officials say feral hogs cause at least $52 million in damage to crops and pastures each year and that more than $7 million is spent annually trying to control the feral pig population.
» State of Wisconsin’s feral pig complaint against Johnson [pdf] » Fulbright’s written statement, retraction [pdf] » Stovall’s written statement [pdf] » Stovall’s deposition [pdf] » William’s deposition [pdf] Email | Print