A farmer in Vermont's Orange County has a big challenge on his hands: tracking down the remaining pigs from a group of 250 animals that escaped from their fenced-in area earlier this month.
The fugitive pigs are on the loose from Sugar Mountain Farm in Orange. It is a producer of ham, sausage, bacon, and other cuts of pork.
"I want to get them back as soon as I can," farmer Walter Jeffries said.
Jeffries wrote a post on his website saying he is certain his escape problem started with a burglary and vandalism at the property this month.
The farmer told necn & NBC 10 Boston Wednesday that vandals damaged key fencing, allowing 250 pigs to sneak out. The group was made up of 50 adult pigs and 200 piglets, Jeffries said.
Many of the animals have already been wrangled, the farmer noted, and a trail of hamburger and hot dog buns was put out Wednesday to help point the rest of the wanderers back to where they belong.
"What that does is train them to come in," Jeffries said of the bread trail, noting that the animals are very motivated by their stomachs. "And then we can herd them — and pigs herd really well."
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Repairs to fencing are underway, Jeffries said.
"It's encouraging that he's trying to get this under control," said Anson Tebbetts, the secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.
Tebbetts said in an interview Wednesday with necn & NBC that his agency has been offering guidance on how to fix the problem and avoid future issues.
"We're concerned about public safety," Tebbetts said. "We want to make sure travelers don't run into the animals — hurt the animals, or hurt themselves."
Tebbetts added that there are also state concerns about establishing a feral population of pigs.
Feral pigs, or wild pigs descended from animals that were once domesticated, have been known to be really destructive elsewhere. But the Orange pigs are still easy-going farm animals, though more than a bit uncooperative at times for the farmers.
"We've lost about two weeks of income already," Jeffries said, adding that there are still fines pending from the town that he will contest.
As for the claims about crimes targeting the farm? By Wednesday's news deadline, necn & NBC 10 Boston couldn't confirm the status of any investigation, but a Vermont State Police spokesman did say the agency received several calls from Sugar Mountain Farm this month reporting suspicious activity.