COLUMBIA — In his 28 years with the Missouri Department of Conservation, protection regional supervisor Tom Strother had never dealt with feral pigs on the Katy Trail.
That ended Monday when two feral pigs alarmed trail users and caused damage to the yard of a Rocheport business.
It all began Monday afternoon when a man came in to the Trailside Cafe and Bike Shop complaining that a "razorback boar" had chased his family as they rode their bikes down the trail.
Employee Morgan Carter, 18, went out on his bike to investigate the situation for himself.
Carter rode to where the man had said his family encountered the animals, and as he was turning the bike around, he said he noticed two pigs.
He dialed 911 and told the dispatcher he was concerned for the safety of the trail-goers.
The dispatcher connected him with a Missouri Department of Conservation agent and Carter explained the situation.
After being told that an agent would respond, Carter returned to the cafe. As he was taking out the garbage, he noticed the same two pigs in the rosebushes by the restaurant.
Not wanting the animals to damage other yards, Carter took matters into his own hands, corralling the pigs and getting them out of the roses.
"I just kind of shuffled them around to one area," Carter said. "They didn't want to get too close and didn't try to run past me."
A short time later, Boone County conservation agent Sean Ernst and Cooper County conservation agent Michael Abdon arrived on the scene and shot the pigs.
By the time the incident was over, the pigs had torn up a patch of dirt and grass, leaving the ground muddy and scattered with hoof prints. Ernest estimated the area to be 10 feet long by 3 feet wide, according to a previous Missourian article.
After the pigs were killed, Ernst searched the area for more pigs but didn't see any.
The agents took the carcasses and disposed of them on a conservation area.
Ernst explained that due to concerns about diseases such as tuberculosis, the carcasses of feral pigs are not donated to the needy. Sometimes certain animals will be donated if the animal was healthy, Strother said.
It is still unknown where the pigs came from. Central Missouri does not have an established population of feral pigs, Strother said.
The best way to determine if the pig actually belonged to someone is to ask around or to see if anyone comes forward to say they are missing a pig, Strother said. That has not happened yet in this case.
While the exact location the pigs came from remains a mystery, there are some indicators to lead conservation officials to believe that these two were at one time domesticated.
"True wild pigs are fearful of people," Strother said. "These didn't run away. Some people on the trail said the pigs were aggressive, others didn't think they were."
Strother said another indication that these pigs may have one time been domesticated was that they had only begun to grow tusks. Farmers manage the tusks of their pigs, while feral pigs have more pronounced tusks.
It is these tusks that pose a danger to people who encounter these feral pigs. Strother said torn flesh inflicted by these tusks is the most common injury from a pig attack.
Feral pig are an invasive species in Missouri, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation's website. They also can spread diseases and destroy habitat and wildlife.
The Department of Conservation encourages people to report sightings of feral hogs to the department. Wild pigs may also be shot on sight in Missouri.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.