Hog's head revisited for biologist

LANGLEY -Every good horror movie has a sequel, and Jack Mayer always seems to have a starring role.

 

The Aiken wildlife biologist, who served as lead consultant for National Geographic Explorer's 2005 hourlong special on "Hogzilla," found himself face-to-face with an even bigger pig Friday - or at least its head.

"Here we go again," said Mayer, who holds a doctorate in feral hog morphology and has examined more than 10,000 of the creatures.

"Hogzilla," the giant boar killed near Alapaha, Ga., had been buried six months when Maye - before a global television audience - exhumed the rotting carcass to extract DNA and examine its skull.

That particular pig turned out to be about 800 pounds and 8 feet long-somewhat shy of the 12-foot, 1,000-pound dimensions claimed by the hunter who shot it.

On Friday, Mayer was in the Langley taxidermy studio of Eddie and Judy Wilson, where he met with Fayetteville, Ga., hunter Bill Coursey-and had a chance to peek at the head of Coursey's nine-foot-long, 1,100-pound wild hog.

Coursey shot the beast Jan. 4 as it grazed in a neighbor's yard.

He then asked a friend with a backhoe to load the carcass into a truck, which was weighed on certified scales at a waste transfer station.

Then the pig was removed, and the truck was weighed again.

The difference was 1,100 pounds, the receipts said.

Coursey wasn't sure what to do with the carcass, so he had it hauled away and buried.

Its massive head, however, was cut off and saved.

"We stuffed it into a 50-gallon barrel," Coursey said. "It almost didn't fit."

It was then frozen, and on Friday trucked to Aiken County, where the Wilsons carefully removed the hide so it can be mounted.

"We have taxidermist friends all over the place who are having a fit, wishing they were doing this one," Judy Wilson said, noting that the pig's neck measured 56 inches.

"We have to start from scratch to make a form because this thing is bigger than anything we can buy," she said.

Mayer was on hand just to study the beast.

"From a purely scientific perspective, we don't have a lot of data on pigs this size," he said.

He took skin and muscle samples, and measurements of the pig's skull. Some samples will be sent to a swine genetics lab in Wisconsin for further evaluation.

"I'll do the morphology end of it and they'll do the genetics," Mayer said.

Once data is gathered it can be placed into a computer modeling program that should help characterize its lineage.

"Is he a wild hog? Yes," Mayer said. "But is it a Eurasian wild boar? No."

Even Hogzilla, once analyzed, proved to be largely Hampshire, a domestic swine breed first introduced to America in the 1800s.

Coursey, meanwhile, enjoyed his stay in Aiken County and even re-enacted the kill for a film crew from The Discovery Channel, which is producing its own special on the giant pig.

"I've gotten calls from all over," Coursey said. "It's amazing."

Mayer said he is grateful for the opportunity to see the hog's head, but wished he could have examined the entire creature, especially its hooves, before it was disposed of.

Although Coursey knows where the carcass is buried, Mayer doesn't plan to dig it up, as he did with Hogzilla.

"We did that once, thank you," he said. "We're not doing that again."

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119 or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

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