EPHRATA – Starting Friday (July 29), the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will close public access to a portion of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area in Grant County as part of a month-long effort to remove feral pigs from the area.
The closure will be in effect through Aug. 31 on about 1,300 acres of the Desert Unit of the wildlife area.
During that time, a team from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will attempt to locate and remove feral pigs, which have been spotted in that area over the past year.
The USDA, which considers feral pigs an invasive species, plans to use bait to attract the animals and shoot them from a helicopter, said Matt Monda, WDFW wildlife manager for northcentral Washington.
According to the Washington Invasive Species Council, feral pigs can be extremely destructive to fences, fields, wetlands, and other wildlife habitat. They can also transmit diseases and parasites to livestock and people. The USDA is currently working in 39 states to control feral pigs, which cause an estimated $1.5 billion a year in environmental damage nationwide.
“We first started receiving public reports of wild pigs in the wildlife area last July,” Monda said. “One of our officers shot a pregnant sow two months later, and we’ve occasionally picked them up on remote cameras over the past year. We don’t want this to get out of hand.”
After assessing the situation, federal agents determined that locating and shooting feral pigs from the air is the best option, Monda said. They also plan to retrieve hair samples from the carcasses for DNA analysis to help determine the origin of the pigs, he said.
“We’re hoping this closure will have minimal impacts on wildlife area visitors,” Monda said. “With the hot weather and buggy conditions, August is the time of year the Desert Unit is least visited by wildlife watchers, anglers and hunters.”
Monda said WDFW will post signs marking the closed area, which will reopen Sept. 1 for the start of early hunting seasons.