By David Beasley
ATLANTA (Reuters) - Wild pigs have descended on a suburban Atlanta neighborhood where they are scaring children, making a general nuisance of themselves, and acting as they if they own the place.
One large specimen was sighted on Monday morning rummaging through garbage it had strewn across Taneisha Danner's front yard in Lithonia, an area about 19 miles east of downtown Atlanta.
It then trotted into the backyard, taking a nap before returning with three other pigs from a patch of nearby woods, Danner told Reuters on Tuesday.
"This is their home," Danner joked. "We're just visiting."
She said the animals were no laughing matter for neighborhood children, however, noting that some were now afraid to leave the safety of their homes.
"My children are even afraid to be downstairs, worried that he (the pig) could come through the door," Danner said.
Descendents of wild boar, the feral pigs are a particular pest in rural Georgia and notorious for damaging farmer's crops, said Charlie Killmaster, a deer and feral hog biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
There are so many hogs that hunting season has been flung wide open for wild pigs on private land, he said, adding that it was still fairly rare for them to show up in suburban neighborhoods.
The population of one of the most invasive and destructive wild animals in the United States has grown rapidly in recent years, however. What was once a largely rural problem has blighted suburban areas in other states as well.
The hogs can be dangerous to humans if they are cornered or if their young are threatened, Killmaster said.
"There is some level of danger associated with them," he added. "But in nearly all cases, steering clear of them is all you need to do."
Danner said she had complained to local authorities about the hogs and was told they were trying to find a private trapper to remove them.
(Editing by Tom Brown and Andrew Hay)