Wild pigs on the Big Island of Hawaii – friend or foe?

Wild Pigs Hawaii Tribune Herald 2020
Wailoa State Recreation Area, Hilo. Photo credit: Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

In the first months of 2020 wild pigs caused significant damage to orchards and crops at Horizon Guest House. The pigs, who live in the surrounding forest of McCandless Ranch, were in the habit of making regular raids on our property. Our gardening efforts, and attempts at protection, were left in disarray as they carved a trail of destruction.

Unfortunately, feral pigs on the Big Island of Hawaii have become a widespread problem. Wild pigs are attracted to a wide variety of food sources. On the Big Island these include crops such as macadamia nuts, bananas, avocados and pineapples. Our banana and pineapple plants were almost all destroyed over a period of months. Significant rooting damage was also done to the garden.

Wild Pig Big Island Hawaii KITV4 Island News
Photo credit: KITV4 Island News

Where did the pigs come from?

It was originally thought that the feral pigs in Hawaii were the direct descendants of those brought to the islands by Captain Cook in 1778. Captain Cook arrived with pigs, chickens and other animals. However, a 2016 study found that most of the feral pigs alive in the islands today are in fact the descendants of those introduced by Polynesians in approximately 1200 AD. [1]

That the origins of the feral pigs are not solely European will be helpful for future discussions about conservation on the islands, as well as their role in Hawaiian cultural heritage.

Wild Pigs Hawaii News Now
Photo credit: Hawaii News Now

Impact on forest ecosystems

Wild pigs also have an impact on the forest ecosystem. A study by the University of Hawai’i found that soil macroinvertebrate communities (organisms that do not have a spine but can be seen with the naked eye, such as snails and insects) remained unaffected by the presence of feral pigs in the environment.[2] However, earthworms and beetles may benefit from association with sites rooted by wild pigs.

Another study found that the absence of feral pigs over time led to increased bacterial diversity in the soil and that there was an overall increase in the ‘ecological resiliency’ of the soil.[3]

WIld Pigs Tribune Herald 2017
Corner of Komohana and Mohouli streets, Hilo. Photo credit: Tim Wright, Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

How to combat feral pigs

Pigs don’t like dogs and will tend to avoid an area if they sense or smell their presence. Culling the invading pigs is also another option, but in the case of Horizon this won’t stop the arrival of more pigs as they breed at such a rapid rate in the adjoining forest. The feral pigs are resourceful and have found creative ways of digging under the boundary fence in order to gain access.

Horizon Guest House Garden
Horizon's new garden fence

Instead we decided on a new approach. We fenced a section of the garden off completely. This area, currently housing the existing vegetable garden, will now also be where we grow the crops most vulnerable to pig invasion. New banana and pineapple plants have been planted and the existing vegetable garden has been expanded. The fence itself has been engineered to be as pig-proof as possible. Additional fence posts have been positioned close together to ensure that the fence is as tight as possible and therefore difficult for even the tiniest of pigs to burrow under.

Feral pigs might appear to be cute and relatively harmless but they continue to cause problems on the Big Island as their numbers in populated rural areas continue to rise. Creative solutions are the best way to try to mitigate their impact on a local level, while perhaps a concerted effort on a state level is needed to combat the issue further.

References

Linderholm A., Spencer D., Battista V., Frantz L., Barnett R., Fleischer R.C., James H.F., Duffy D., Sparks J.P., Clements D.R., Andersson L., Dobney K., Leonard J.A. & Larson G. (2016). [1] A novel MC1R allele for black coat colour reveals the Polynesian ancestry and hybridization patterns of Hawaiian feral pigs. R. Soc. open sci. 3, 160304. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.160304

Wehr, N.H., Kinney, K.M., Nguyen, N.H., Giardina, C.P. & Litton, C.M. (2019). [3] Changes in soil bacterial community diversity following the removal of invasive feral pigs from a Hawaiian tropical montane wet forest. Sci Rep 9, 14681. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-48922-7

Wehr, N.H., Litton, C.M., Lincoln, N.K. & Hess, Steven C. (2020). [2] Relationships between soil macroinvertebrates and nonnative feral pigs (Sus scrofa) in Hawaiian tropical montane wet forests . Biol Invasions 22, 577–586. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-019-02117-3

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Brioche French toast with a little help from Julia Child

Making brioche is easier than it looks and it makes for some spectacularly good French toast. Worth making the effort for, this brioche recipe comes courtesy of Julia Child and is perfect for soaking up our special French toast mixture! Begin with the brioche or skip straight to our delicious French toast recipe.

Making brioche

Brioche dough has a rich, buttery flavor and is closer to cake than bread in texture. Essential to this recipe is either an electric mixer or a food processor. The dough itself needs two risings – the second rising can happen while refrigerated overnight, though we did this within one day. 

Brioche ingredients Hawaii

Prepare the yeast. Cut the butter into small pieces and then melt in a saucepan with the milk.

Measure all flour except for 1 cup into the mixer bowl. Next, add the salt, the sugar and then the melted butter & milk, and then the eggs. Mix to blend. Take care when adding the yeast, the mixture should be warm to the touch. If it feels too hot, wait a moment for it to cool.

Beat at a medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, slowly add the remaining flour. For best results, use a dough hook (if you aren’t using a dough hook unclog the blades if needed). Place dough on a lightly floured board and leave to rest for about 2 minutes.

Brioche dough 3 HGH Horizon

Then knead the dough vigorously for 2 minutes. The dough should feel quite soft.

Bricohe dough knead HGH Hawaii

Place dough in lightly-oiled large bowl (2 gallon-sized). Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place to rise (preferably in the range of 72–75F). If you’re in hot climate, it may be necessary to slow the rise by putting it in the refrigerator. In approximately 3 hours (or when it’s tripled in size) turn out onto a lightly floured board. 

Julia’s tip: shape the dough into a rectangle with your hands and then fold the dough in 3 – repeat this process and then return to the bowl. This process redistributes the yeast cells within the dough and helps achieve a finer grain consistency.

Cover and let rise again – ideally to double the size. This second rise can be achieved overnight, if you prefer, by placing in the refrigerator. 

Brioche dough Horizon HGH rise

Turn out onto a board. Take one half of the dough and cut into three pieces. Roll each piece out by hand until you have three even ropes. Pinch together at one end.

Then, start braiding by crossing the right rope over the center rope. Then, cross the left rope over the center. Alternate in this way, right and left over center, until the braid is complete.

Do the same with the other half of the dough.

Place the two loaves of bread in two regular loaf pans (lightly oiled). Cover and let rise (the final rise, I promise!) for 1 to 2 hours.

Brioche dough rise again 2 HGH Hawaii

If you like you can glaze with an egg wash. Beat an egg and carefully brush the top of the loaf, careful not let any egg run down the side of the pan as this will cause the loaf to stick. Preheat oven to 450F (230C) and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or if you have a thermometer – until the internal temperature has reached 180-190F. 

Brioche out of the oven HGH Hawaii

The recipe we used was adapted from the Julia Child & Company cookbook. Julia had planned to come and stay at Horizon Guest House in 2004 but died of kidney failure just before her 92nd birthday.

Brioche French toast

Bricohe French toast HGH Hawaii

If you haven’t made the brioche above you can still use any spongy, thickly-sliced white bread as a substitute – challah, sourdough and baguettes work well.

In a pan lay out 6 pieces of brioche. Make sure these are sliced between ¾ inch – 1 inch thick.

Whisk the eggs and add the sugar.

Add the vanilla, heavy cream and milk. Whisk together well.

Pour the mixture over the bread.

Make sure you get a good coverage. Use a spatula to lift the bread to ensure the bread is thoroughly soaked. Cover the pan with tinfoil and leave to soak in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, take out and turn the bread and give it another 30 minutes (if you make this the night before you can easily leave it to soak overnight).

The bread should have absorbed all of the mixture.

Brioche French toast soak HGH Hawaii

Sprinkle with cinnamon and then pan fry with butter (at a ratio of 1 Tbs for every two slices) on a medium heat. 

Bricohe French toast fry HGH Hawaii

Flip once and then reduce heat.

Pro tip: cover with tinfoil and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. This allows the French toast to be cooked through without burning – which can happen due to the high sugar content.

Brioche French toast HGH Hawaii

Served with all your favorite French toast toppings. Ours include warmed Canadian maple syrup and a good serving of fruit (banana, papaya, oranges and blueberries) to offset the delicious sweetness.

Tell us about your brioche and/or French toast in the comments below!

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