This little piggy goes to the park

By Jason Ferguson

It took some chasing, but Custer State Park staff eventually wore out the pig. Brady Neiles, a resource biologist for the state’s Division of Wildlife, was the first to catch up with the pig.

Even if it were only for a day, a state government agency was able to eliminate the pork.

On Saturday, June 8, Custer State Park staff received reports that a pig was treating an area near the Black Hills Playhouse and Center Lake as its own personal pigsty. Staff responding to the area determined there was indeed a pot-bellied pig hanging out in the area. Staff was unable to hog-tie the animal at that time.

However, on Tuesday, June 11, a group of seven park staff members headed to Center Lake to corral the animal, which was later found to be a castrated male. Staff observed the pig hogging an area just off the lake, where it was sitting in the sun and perhaps getting ready to head into the lake for a hogwash.

The initial plan was for the group of seven to approach the pig with nets and capture it that way, but as staff members approached, the pig was not boar, er…bored enough to overlook their capture attempt and took off running.

“As soon was we started to encroach on the pig, that plan fell out the window,” said Custer State Park visitor service program manager Kobee Stalder.

The pork chopped up the ground in a surprisingly quick fashion, with Stalder saying it ran quite a ways before it began to finally tire out.

“It was pretty fast,” he said. “Faster than we anticipated it to be.”

Brady Neiles, resource biologist for the state’s Division of Wildlife stationed in Custer State Park, did the honors of diving onto the piggy back and tackling the pig once it got tired. Staff then put the pig into a cage, after which time it was transported to Battle Mountain Humane Society.

Stalder said park staff is not sure where the pig came from, but there is speculation the pig has been hamming it up in the park for over three years, while others believe it was recently dropped off by its owners who had perhaps grown tired of the animal.

“It was domesticated at some point in time,” Stalder said. “We don’t know when it got dropped off or how long it was wandering around.”

“Pot-bellied pigs are popular pets,” said Custer State Park and South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks regional parks supervisor Matt Snyder. “When staff first saw the animal, they were able to get within 20 feet of it and were able to see that it likely wasn’t a feral hog. At that point we wanted to capture the pig and possibly reunite it with its owner.”

While this may seem strange and innocent enough, pigs — especially feral hogs — can mean problems. Across the country, feral hogs have become a big nuisance, taking over and destroying large amounts of habitat. Feral hogs have been found in nearby states and Canadian provinces, including north central North Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa.

While this is considered an isolated incident, Custer State Park staff reminds­ visitors that if they have a pet on the loose, they should inform staff immediately.