Gray clouds were building up thick in the northeast when Koko and I set out this morning, while before us, the mountains were capped in white fluff. The sunrise was limited to a pale orange smudge, and even the birds were subdued in their singing.
Ran into my neighbor Andy, who was also out early, roused as I was by the light that’s now stretching the day on either end. Koko was, as usual, happy to see him, and she stood up and hugged his calf, bringing her head closer to his hand, or perhaps it was the pocket with dog biscuits she was aiming for.
Earlier, Koko had spent a lot of time snuffling around in the place where the pigs cross the road, traveling from one valley to another. With the guava fruiting, they’ve got plenty to eat.
A friend recently told me he’d heard Kauai’s pig population was estimated at about 65,000 — a figure that’s comparable to the resident humans. That stockpile could come in handy if food prices, driven in part by oil that is now $126 a barrel, keep rising.
It seems wild pigs are increasing even on Oahu, where hunting may be expanded in some parts of the island to keep a lid on the population, according to an article in today's Advertiser.
But it seems there’s a conflict with some folks who live in Manoa, Makiki and Tantalus and actually put out food for the wild pigs — sort of like the well-meaning, but woefully misguided, people here who feed the feral cats and chickens. They all reproduce wildly, and with few predators, it doesn’t take long for the numbers to get out of control.
When I was on Lanai, I was chatting with a guy who works for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. Although he primarily manages the hunting areas there, he was also helping some of the other state guys trap the feral cats that are preying on the black-rumped petrels. Lanai actually has the state’s largest population of these endangered birds.
Anyway, since nothing goes unnoticed on that small island, when the traps arrived by barge, word quickly spread to the cat rescue society and the state guys had to pull a few diversionary maneuvers to avoid a confrontation.
Apparently, the cat people had been spaying wild cats then releasing them back into the wild. Yes, that does help to curtail the population, but it does nothing to stop them from eating endangered birds and other wildlife, or slowly starving to death when the pickings are slim.
I love cats, and all animals, but everything has its place. And with so many of Hawaii’s native bird species on the ropes, the backcountry is no place for kitties.
The Kauai County Council, meanwhile, will conduct a hearing on Wednesday on bills that would allow folks — but only the responsible ones, mind you — to walk their dogs on The Path, which is considered a "linear park," and so off-limits to canines.
According to an article in The Garden Island, Councilman Tim Bynum, who introduced the meaaures, received some 80 pieces of mail on the subject, and all but three supported dogs on The Path.
"This is a serious issue," he said. "There are people who are intimidated about dogs, and sometimes dog owners just don't understand that. But as a society, we've decided having dogs on leashes in public is the norm."
Actually, dogs chained up in yards is more the norm on Kauai.
While I feel for the cops who will be assigned doo doo patrol to ensure people pick up after the pooches, let's hope the Council can see its way clear to pass these ordinances. If we've got to endure concrete along the coast, at least let us share it with our best friends.