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NPS arrowhead National Park Service, Department of the Interior Office of Communications 1849 C Street NW Washington DC 20240
202-208-6843 phone, 202-219-0910 fax
National Park Service News Release


For Immediate Release:
October 14, 2002
Contact(s):   Rafe Boulon , St. John, U. S. Virgin Islands, (340) 693-8950 x 224


Virgin Islands National Park Releases Draft Plan For Sustained Reduction Of Non-Native Wild Hogs

John H. King, Virgin Islands National Park Superintendent, announced today the beginning of a 42-day public review of the Draft Sustained Reduction Plan for Non-native Wild Hogs Within Virgin Islands National Park Environmental Assessment (EA), a long-range plan for minimizing impacts from this feral, non-native animal species within the national park. The review period will be from October 14 to November 22, 2002.

The purpose of this Draft Environmental Assessment is to evaluate impacts from undertaking a control program for non-native wild hogs within Virgin Islands National Park. By reducing their populations inside the Park, adverse impacts to visitors, residents, natural, cultural and aquatic resources would decrease. Wild hog populations pose a large threat to the native natural resources, long-term resource management programs of the Park, cultural resources, and visitor health and safety.

People have accidentally or intentionally introduced hundreds of exotic species into natural communities worldwide, and while many die out some persist and become pests. Wild animals, which establish breeding populations after being introduced by humans, are termed exotic. Feral animals, by contrast, were introduced from domestic animals and established breeding populations in the wild. Exotics are generally more frightened of humans, while feral animals can be very friendly to people. These species disrupt complex native ecological communities, jeopardize endangered and native plants and animals, and degrade native habitats.

Non-native domestic hogs (Sus scrofa) are an ungulate species not native to North America or South America. The term “non-native hog” refers to domestic hogs that escape to survive in the wild, as well as their progeny. Christopher Columbus first introduced European hogs into the West Indies in 1493. The Danes brought wild hogs, to St. John in the early 1700’s when they colonized the island.

Wild hogs have established breeding populations in many areas and all habitat types of the Virgin Islands National Park. Hogs escape from fenced enclosures and periodically wander into surrounding areas, including National Park lands, and become feral. The proposed action is intended to address the potential for spreading into new areas, especially now that several populations are established in both the northern and southern portions of the Park, mitigating current impacts, and sustaining a near-zero population to limit future impacts.

The effects of wild hogs on Park resources are multifaceted and result from their movements, habitat utilization and food habits. Of greatest concern are the destructive effects hogs have on natural ecosystems and native components of those ecosystems. Hog rooting behavior profoundly disrupts natural communities, individual species populations, forest successional patterns and forest nutrient cycles. Rooting on trails and in the forest often results in high rates of soil erosion, which severely affects aquatic habitats. Rooting and wallowing by hogs detrimentally affect the aesthetic and wilderness values of the Park. Wild hogs negatively affect the fauna of the Park through predation, habitat alteration and competition for food.

The National Park Service Organic Act of 1916 mandates the parks to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein…{to} leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” Changes of the natural communities from human actions in the parks, including the continuous and unabated invasion of introduced exotic and feral species, are contrary to the intentions of the Act.

Superintendent King notes that: "Because the Park boundary is entirely permeable with private or Territorial lands, feral animals readily enter from adjacent lands. Thus, animals inhabiting adjacent lands can easily enter the Park and establish breeding populations. For these reasons the permanent elimination (eradication) of hogs from the Park is impossible. Therefore, feasible alternatives must focus on regular efforts to reduce the population size and maintain them at low levels.”

Rafe Boulon, Chief of Resources Management at Virgin Islands National Park, explains that: "Non-native species such as wild hogs pose a serious threat to the Park’s natural resources, long-term management programs, and visitor health and safety. The program is termed a ‘sustained reduction’ because once the hog populations are reduced to low levels, the smaller populations will be held at/or below that level. The proposed control program mirrors similar programs throughout the world and is needed to meet a variety of Federal laws and National Park Service mandates.”

The proposed sustained reduction program would be accomplished in three phases. Phase I would require approximately one year to complete once funding is received and environmental compliance is met. This year would be used to hire or contract with personnel, purchase supplies and equipment, and construct live-traps. Fences may be constructed to exclude non-native animals from some long-term monitoring plots and limited selective areas of the boundary where hogs easily enter the Park (Herman Farm, L’ Esperance and Catherineberg).

A safe and comprehensive hog population reduction campaign is envisioned for each watershed in Phase II. Due to logistical factors, watersheds may be paired and worked simultaneously, e.g. Maho--Cinnamon and Reef--Lameshur. Phase II would possible take approximately 2--3 years. Baiting in conjunction with snares, single-capture and corral traps will be employed systematically throughout each watershed. Use of dogs and shooters would be restricted to elusive or difficult to capture animals. Areas of high hog concentrations would be targeted first.

Phase III would be an indefinite period of monitoring the Park for hog sign. If hog sign was detected, NPS law enforcement rangers or certified resources management personnel would either trap and/or humanely dispatch the animals as described in Phase II.

Copies of the Draft Environmental Assessment are available for review at public libraries and the Park's Visitor Center in Cruz Bay, National Park Headquarters at Christiansted NHS, St. Croix or can be downloaded from the Internet at www.nps.gov/viis or www.friendsvinp.org. Copies can also be requested from Rafe_Boulon@nps.gov or by calling (340) 693-8950 extension 224.

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Draft Environmental Assessment

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