It’s a sad end to Middleburgh’s decade-old battle with pig farmer Michael Lepore.
Mr. Lepore has died—not at home as neighbors had feared, but in a hospital.
And so far, efforts to round up 15-20 pigs, as well as chickens, geese, and ducks left behind at his Durfee Road farm have been unsuccessful.
Fred Risse, who farms land nearby, called the Sheriff’s Office for a welfare check on Mr. Lepore after another neighbor noticed there was no smoke coming from Mr. Lepore’s chimney, the driveway was unplowed, and no one had been feeding the pigs or fowl.
As far back as 2010, Mr. Lepore, local officials, and even DEC had been doing battle over his pigs—at one time as many as 300 of them who, unfenced, roamed the roads and nearby state land, rooting up gardens and the woods, and even harassing neighbors.
But Mr. Risse, who’d been feeding the animals since Mr. Lepore went missing, said Thursday that deputies had finally gotten in touch with family members who confirmed he’d died a week or so ago in the hospital.
The family has signed off on the animals, Mr. Risse told Supervisor Pete Coppolo and councilman, and with help from the Sheriff’s Office and the Schenectady County SPCA, he planned to go in Friday to try to round them up.
But when they arrived, Mr. Risse said Saturday, the pigs, their biggest concern, were AWOL.
“There had been a couple of them, pretty friendly, who’d been hanging out near the house,” Mr. Risse said Saturday. “But they were gone…it looks like they’ve gone up to join the rest of the herd at the top of the hill.”
Mr. Risse said they’ll try again—possibly leaving an livestock trailer with feed—but snow and the condition of the road will make any rescue efforts difficult.
“I had a guy with a snowmobile who was going to help, but he had to work,” Mr. Risse said. “Now with the snow melting, maybe we can get some four-wheelers to help herd them down to the road.”
If they’re successful, Mr. Risse said he’s willing to take some of the animals; he’s reached out to the Broome Animal Sanctuary and is looking for other farmers interested who might be able to take the rest.
The fowl seem to be in surprisingly good shape, he said, but the pigs have only been spotted from the distance.
If the pigs aren’t caught, Mr. Risse said there’s a good chance they’ll survive the winter, rooting under the snow for food.
But feral pigs are their own concern: Though large-scale pig problems are largely confined to the Western states—for now—the USDA estimates they’re responsible for least $1.5 billion in damages and control costs annually.