Ever since I first wrote about wild hogs discovering our homestead near Groveland, readers have emailed me with advice and warnings.
"Did you know that adult hogs are very, very dangerous?" wrote Annette Farrar in November 2015. "Boar hogs have sharp tusks which they will gore you with if they get close... A sow with little pigs will attack anyone. One once chased my mother out of the field on our farm."
A letter from Louise Turmenne reinforced Farrar's words: "Adult hogs are very territorial in nature once they establish domain. They have a vicious nature...Hogs could attack and kill a child or domestic animals within seconds."
|Feral hogs are large, powerful animals that can pose a real threat to humans|
Although I took those and the comments of others seriously, my own observations of the porcine invasion didn't suggest a major threat. The few times I saw one or more wild hogs — it wasn't nearly as often as expected considering the amount of land they'd uprooted — the animals always backed away first. Either that or they ignored me and continued foraging for food without more than a token snort.
Until the other day.
It was late afternoon when I decided to take a leisurely solo stroll around the lake carrying only a cell phone and camera. I was nearing the north end of the property when I noticed a large patch of freshly disturbed ground.
"Pigs must have been rooting around here," I recall thinking as I continued along on my lazy day ramble.
In a few feet, I passed another patch of disturbed ground just before rounding a corner where the pathway narrows into a tight spot wedged between the lake on one side and a field fence on the other. The fence is hidden behind a dense hedge of bamboo.
It was there I saw the wild hog.
I stopped immediately. The animal, which had been nosing the ground, stopped what he was doing too. The bristly-haired beast lifted his head to look me in the eye just as I slowly lifted my camera to snap off a shot.
|A single, shaky shot was all I was able to take before turning to leave|
We were about 30 feet apart. I assumed the hog would turn around and leave as other wild pigs had done before when encountered on the property. This fellow, however, stood his ground. So I — not completely foolish or impetuous — retreated instead. I turned around to go back the way I came.
I figured that was the end of that. The 200-plus-pound animal figured differently.
Seconds after my retreat, I realized the boar was running after me. I turned to look and immediately surprised myself by emitting a loud shriek. My screech also must have surprised the hog because he skidded to a stop about 10 feet away from where I stood screaming. His pause permitted me time to get away. Running like I haven't run in years, I beelined it home.
By the time I returned to the house, my heart was beating fast, but I was safe. I found my husband in his garden and told him what had happened.
"I almost got attacked by a hog," I said in a breathless burst of words. "Far end of the lake...wild pig...chased me…ran…"
"What'd you say?" he asked while putting down the digging tool he was using and switching off his headphones. I repeated my story in a somewhat calmer fashion and this time he listened, understood my anxiety and gave me a hug.
Looking back on the experience I realize how many mistakes I made. For starters, going for a walk at dusk by myself without any protection other than a cell phone and camera was wrong. Many animals, including wild hogs, become more active at twilight. At the very least, I should have asked Ralph to come with me. At best, I should have carried a weapon.
I made my second mistake when I failed to associate the freshly disturbed ground at the north end of the lake with the imminent presence of hogs. Had I done so, I could have turned around earlier instead of foolishly plodding on.
Mistake No. 3 was not realizing that the feral pig felt trapped in a narrow spot with few means of escape. My fourth mistake was in turning my back on a large and dangerous critter who didn't like being disturbed.
Despite my wrongs, I did a couple things right. I screamed and I ran.
An old quote from British satirist Peter Cook says, "I have learned from my mistakes, and I am sure I can repeat them exactly."
Over the years, Ralph and I have reiterated those words in a variety of situations. This is not one of them.
I have no intention of repeating the mistakes I made. Instead, I've reread all my readers' advice with new and grateful eyes. If asked again if I realize how dangerous adult hogs are, I can honestly answer yes.
But I also realize how responsible humans are for our own actions. Some potentially harmful situations can be avoided if we act with less abandon and more awareness. Preparedness over impulsivity. Caution instead of carelessness. Feral pigs may be dangerous animals, but they aren't always to blame for every hog-versus-human confrontation.
Below is the Peter Cook/Dudley Moore routine referred to above!