This little piggy cries wolf in the capital of Silicon Valley
“Then I will huff and I will puff, and I will BLOW your house down!” growled the wolf
Silicon Valley, with San Jose as its capital, is one of the most expensive places to buy property, at the moment. It is known as one of the top five most expensive cities to live in the U.S. With an average starting salary of $111,000 for engineers, working at one of the many top tech companies in the world, this is the place to be. They say talent attracts talent. So do the world’s leading tech companies like Apple, Google and Facebook, which all have their headquarters in San Jose. Living in the beautiful suburbs surrounding downtown San Jose is a dream come true, for the privileged few, who can afford to live here. Most of the houses look like mansions, the gardens are lush and green and resembles parks. When you drive through the suburbs, you get a feel of abundance, luxury, contemporary living and, of course, affluence. Green lawns, some of the most beautiful golf courses in the world and the surrounding hills, all contribute to creating a picture-perfect setting. Whatever your perception of Silicon Valley, there is no other place on Earth quite like it. This is where the top-notch software and tech engineers of our times sleep at night. It is just perfect, one would say… except for the pigs!
Since 2003 feral pigs invade suburbs and golf courses around San Jose, destroy lawns, scare children and upset dogs. Every year the problem is getting worse, and it seems the local authorities, still do not have a solution.
Who let the pigs out
The feral pigs in San Jose are a hybrid breed of a standard domesticated pig brought to the area by Spanish and Russian settlers in the mid-1700s and 1800s. The declining bear population, due to hunting in the area, resulted in an ever-growing boar population. These pigs grew in numbers, as they did not have any natural enemies to taper down the numbers. The situation was complicated even more by a millionaire called George Gordon Moore, who imported the first European wild boar in the 1920s. He bought an enormous piece of land in Monterey county with a huge house, polo grounds, a lake and hunting grounds where he entertained his famous friends. These imported wild boars were set loose on his property for his lavish hunting excursions. Within ten years after being introduced, these wild boars started spreading through the county and encountered the feral pig population. This resulted in the wild pig hybrid we have in San Jose, today.
California’s feral hogs are larger than life and quite scary. They can grow into 200-pound muscle machines. They are known to tear up lawns and destroy hillsides. Feral pigs are not aggressive and will retreat when challenged, but they are not afraid of humans, have dangerous teeth and are capable of inflicting serious injuries if challenged or when they have their offsprings threatened.
Bring home the bacon
San Jose has struggled with wild hogs damaging parks, football fields, gardens and golf courses since the early 2000s. These wild animals have been raging havoc in upmarket neighbourhoods where people have spent enormous amounts, of money, to upgrade their gardens. Over the years, landscape engineers have been working around the clock on concepts to reduce the invasion of wild hogs, but to no avail.
Angry citizens have lodged complaints, with little results in bringing down the numbers of these feral pigs in the city parameters. A trapping system was implemented, in 2017 and trappers caught and killed 14 pigs at the Almaden Golf and Country Club. The nocturnal pigs have now grown wise to traps and fences. Trappers at Coyote Creek, have not trapped a single pig in 2019. The need to thin the herd is growing, year by year. In 2020 the problem spiralled even further, and angry residents insisted on drastic measures. Since shooting firearms is illegal inside city limits, it was proposed, that the council should hire an archer to kill the pigs. That option was rejected because highway 101 was too close to the area, and wounded boars could end up on the road and cause accidents.
The only alternative to solving the problem is to hunt the pigs traditionally, but the legislation does not allow it. The fact that San Jose has a ban on firearms complicates the situation, even more. Homeowners want the city to do more. To say residents are frustrated would be an understatement. San Jose City Council member Johnny Khamis said in an interview that it is the homeowner’s responsibility to get rid of the pigs. He says that it is like any other plague, for example, cockroaches, and rats. It is not the responsibility of the city council. Homeowners are furious because they need to foot the bill for pig trappers.
When pigs fly
Like with any other ecological issue, you need to identify the origin of the problem before you can put any solutions or possible legislation in place to solve it. The feral pig problem in San Jose, at the moment, is a combination of three interrelated occurrences in the vicinity of the city. These wild pigs are coming out of the surrounding wildlands and are migrating up the roughs and fairways, in search of food and water.
California is currently in the midst of a severe drought. If you look at the U.S. Drought Monitor map of California, all the adjacent counties to Santa Clara are either in D3 (Extreme Drought)or D4 (Exceptional Drought). These hungry and thirsty wild pigs are simply doing what any intelligent mammal would do to survive. They are migrating to where food and water are still available. These animals are naturally shy and scared of humans but are overcoming their fears for the survival of their species.
Another factor that contributed to the sudden rise in the urban pig population, is, of course, the draining of Lake Anderson. Lake Anderson and the surrounding area provided a safe and nourishing habitat for our porky friends. Valley Water has drained Anderson Reservoir in east Morgan Hill until it is almost empty. The reservoir is currently at less than 3 per cent.
The efforts are part of the Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofit Project. The construction, of which is ultimately expected to last about 10 years. - Valley Water staff.
The water drained into Coyote Creek for fish and wildlife conservation, and the rest percolated into Valley Water’s other treatment plants. The result is, all those wild hogs have also meandered downstream to new habitats on the fringes of the neighbourhoods. Being omnivore by nature, pigs eat anything from fish to bananas, and where in the world would you find a better pig menu than the landfills of San Jose?
This brings us to the last piece of this puzzle.
Since 1929, Guadalupe Recycling and Disposal Facility, has been providing safe and reliable recycling and disposal services to San Jose and southern Santa Clara County residents and businesses. Nearly 200 acres of the 411-acre site are set aside for wildlife preservation. — Guadalupe Landfill — Waste Managementhttp://guadalupe.wm.com
Even the clever urbanised pigs of San Jose needs to eat. It is only natural that they will find refuge in wildlife protected areas next to a landfill area at the edge of a neighbourhood. Guadalupe Recycling and Disposal Facility has been certified a Wildlife at the Worksite by the national non-profit Wildlife Habitat Council. The facility even welcomes conservation study and research. Surely they can’t only cater for rabbits and snakes, urban pigs are clever enough to join the party.
The pigs are not the problem - the drought, the reconstruction of dams and waterworks, the refuse and garbage of a highly developed society, and the lack of a community, its governing bodies and leaders to take responsibility, is the problem. Pigs are just not aesthetically acceptable enough for this modern cyber capital of Silicon Valley. It might just depreciate the real estate market of San Jose, and that won’t do.
They need to go!