A Coun­try Life How to fight ma­raud­ing pigs

Mar­ion Mclauch­lan came across a pig of a prob­lem on her bush block, and found the an­swer a big buzz.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents -

Six­teen years ago we took over guardian­ship of 11ha (27 acres) of Marl­bor­ough Sounds par­adise. Our first ex­er­cise was to build a kit­set sleep-out and a com­post­ing toi­let. Sheep had al­ready (safely) grazed on the area that was to be­come our house site and a rea­son­able ‘lawn’ es­tab­lished it­self in the first year. A bit of rough mow­ing dealt to the mul­ti­ple manuka seedlings that tried to take over.

We were so in­spired by the house and gar­den ef­fect of our lit­tle lawn in the mid­dle of the bush, we mowed on down the slope and soon had a green trail lead­ing over the stream and down to the gate.

The kids came with friends and camped in par­adise in the first sum­mer. A cou­ple of fei­joas were planted and a potato patch staked out for the next grow­ing sea­son. We vis­ited fre­quently, putting in a wa­ter sys­tem and a wood fire to heat an out­door bath. The fire was also use­ful for cook­ing the wild pork the lo­cal hunters shared with us. The rel­e­vance of that es­caped us at the time.

We con­tin­ued plant­ing and soon there were flax, kowhai and cab­bage trees to en­cour­age the birds. The fol­low­ing sum­mer came and went, pota­toes grew and were eaten.

We felt pretty happy watch­ing a big drove of pigs hap­pily for­ag­ing in the hills op­po­site us. The rel­e­vance of that es­caped us at the time.

Ac­cess to our par­adise in­volved fly­ing from Welling­ton, then a short sea voy­age down the Sounds. Some­time in the sec­ond win­ter, on a Fri­day af­ter work, we ar­rived at our gate in the dark. But in­stead of our pretty grass track, we found what ap­peared to be a ploughed pad­dock. Our neigh­bours were not the types to ran­domly plough other peo­ple’s land so we were stumped as to the cause. The plough­ing con­tin­ued up the hill and by the light of our head­lamps we saw our lawn, fur­rowed to some depth.

It took a while to con­nect the dots. Hunters and chops. Pigs mass­ing on the op­po­site hill. Pigs!

We set about re­pair­ing the dam­age, re­plac­ing the gi­ant div­ots, rak­ing, and sow­ing pas­ture seed. We took the op­por­tu­nity to flat­ten out some of the lumps and carted

pre­cious top­soil from wher­ever we could find it. It’s a long time ago now and I can’t re­mem­ber how many times we re­peated this ef­fort. I do re­mem­ber it was enough to make us some­what des­per­ate ev­ery time we got there to find yet more plough­ing.

We tried var­i­ous bar­ri­ers. Sticks, rocks, net­ting, but the Cap­tain Cook­ers’ big tusks made short work of them all.

We talked to ev­ery­one about our prob­lem. We got lots of ad­vice. My part­ner went to gun safety classes and got her gun li­cense. A friend loaned us an old Winch­ester and we in­vested in a cou­ple of pig traps. But we weren’t there enough to be any sort of de­ter­rent, and the pork­ers con­tin­ued to come out of the hills and cock a snout at us.

Then one day at work came some new ad­vice. What we needed, they said, was an elec­tric fence. Pigs are smart char­ac­ters: once shocked, twice shy.

But how do you set up an elec­tric fence when you have no elec­tric­ity? We re­grouped, re­paired, and added 12-volt tech­nol­ogy to our body of knowl­edge. A happy bonus was it was suf­fi­cient to power an out­door kitchen, an­other hut and an old 4x4 ve­hi­cle.

Af­ter five years of on­go­ing re­pair and restora­tion, we set out to daz­zle the Cap­tain Cook­ers with our 12-volt so­lu­tion. We staked out the perime­ter with poles, tape, an en­er­gizer and a deep cy­cle 12-volt bat­tery.

Ini­tially the odd fur­row could be seen around the out­side. But be­fore long the fence was earn­ing its keep and the only sign of pork since then has been mar­i­nated, basted and roasted.

It’s at least 10 years since the last in­cur­sion. We now have a house on the site and a per­fectly smooth green oa­sis in the mid­dle of the bush.

Lit­tle pig, lit­tle pig, you can’t come in!

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