Here, 30-50 hours after it stopped being topical, are some maps of the USA’s fast-spreading feral hog infestation

Awwwww. Image: Getty.

If I used the phrase “30-50 feral hogs” to you in a social situation, you would almost certainly have one of two reactions. Either it will bring back warm memories of laughing quietly to yourself some time on Tuesday night, and we will be able to share a joke, before maybe admitting that it’s worn a bit thin now and, frankly, it’s too late to be writing about it; or you won’t have the faintest clue what I’m talking about. From your reaction, I will be able to tell whether the social media platform Twitter is a big part of your life – whether you are, to use the jargon all the cool kids are using, “very online”.

I am very online – unusually so, for a man of my years – and feral hog Twitter is one of the best things to have happened on that benighted hellsite in what feels like a generation. In the middle of another depressing, repetitive argument about gun control laws in the US, this happened:

The incongruity of that tweet – the vast number of hogs in play, the difficulty of pinning them down to an exact figure, the specificity of the time period it takes them to get to the yard – all make for something that is, accidentally one assumes, incredibly funny. (I say “one assumes”: William McNabb, who sent it, now has a hog as his avatar, so who knows.) At any rate, on Monday night on Twitter you couldn’t move for parodies of it:

 

All this happened three days ago, which is about four hundred years in meme time. But CityMetric likes to stay at least 36 hours behind the news cycle at all times, just to ensure we have a properly discerning audience, and my colleague George just found a map, so let’s do this.

William McNabb, his profile says, lives in El Dorado, Arkansas, a city near the state’s southern border with Louisiana. Here’s a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) map of the country’ feral swine population. I’ve marked El Dorado with a red dot.

So – there really are feral swine rioting in much of the southern US, very possibly in close proximity to small children.

That map, you will notice, is from 1982. A lot of species are dying out because humanity is terrific, so perhaps in the intervening lifetime the problem will have got better, yes? No. Here’s the same map for 2004:

And again, for 2018:

The hogs, it seems, are taking over. Oh, yeah, and the reason they don’t seem bothered by the growth of industrial human civilisation is because it was humans that bought them to North America in the first place. From the USDA’s Animal & Planet Health Inspection Service:

Feral swine are not native to the Americas. They were first brought to the United States in the 1500s by early explorers and settlers as a source of food. Free-range livestock management practices and escapes from enclosures led to the first establishment of feral swine populations within the United States.

In the 1900s, the Eurasian or Russian wild boar was introduced into parts of the United States for the purpose of sport hunting. Today, feral swine are a combination of escaped domestic pigs, Eurasian wild boars, and hybrids of the two.

Or to put it another way, it’s all our fault.

Feral swine have been reported in at least 35 states. Their population is estimated at over 6 million and is rapidly expanding. Range expansion over the last few decades is due to a variety of factors including their adaptability to a variety of climates and conditions, translocation by humans, and a lack of natural predators.

At any rate: 30-50 feral hogs in your yard in Arkansas? Less unlikely than it sounds.


Stay tuned for CityMetric’s take on this hot new trend for really big cows that everyone was talking about some time last year.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

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London’s rail and tube map is out of control

Aaaaaargh. Image: Getty.

The geographical limits of London’s official rail maps have always been slightly arbitrary. Far-flung commuter towns like Amersham, Chesham and Epping are all on there, because they have tube stations. Meanwhile, places like Esher or Walton-on-Thames – much closer to the city proper, inside the M25, and a contiguous part of the built up area – aren’t, because they fall outside the Greater London and aren’t served by Transport for London (TfL) services. This is pretty aggravating, but we are where we are.

But then a few years ago, TfL decided to show more non-London services on its combined Tube & Rail Map. It started with a few stations slightly outside the city limits, but where you could you use your Oyster card. Then said card started being accepted at Gatwick Airport station – and so, since how to get to a major airport is a fairly useful piece of information to impart to passengers, TfL’s cartographers added that line too, even though it meant including stations bloody miles away.

And now the latest version seems to have cast all logic to the wind. Look at this:

Oh, no. Click to expand. Image: TfL.

The logic for including the line to Reading is that it’s now served by TfL Rail, a route which will be part of the Elizabeth Line/Crossrail, when they eventually, finally happen. But you can tell something’s gone wrong here from the fact that showing the route, to a town which is well known for being directly west of London, requires an awkward right-angle which makes it look like the line turns north, presumably because otherwise there’d be no way of showing it on the map.

What’s more, this means that a station 36 miles from central London gets to be on the map, while Esher – barely a third of that distance out – doesn’t. Nor does Windsor & Eton Central, because it’s served by a branchline from Slough rather than TfL Rail trains, even though as a fairly major tourist destination it’d probably be the sort of place that at least some users of this map might want to know how to get to.

There’s more. Luton Airport Parkway is now on the map, presumably on the basis that Gatwick is. But that station doesn’t accept Oyster cards yet, so you get this:

Gah. Click to expand. Image: TfL.

There’s a line, incidentally, between Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey, which is just down the road from St Albans City. Is that line shown on the map? No it is not.

Also not shown on the map: either Luton itself, just one stop up the line from Luton Airport Parkway, or Stansted Airport, even though it’s an airport and not much further out than places which are on the map. Somewhere that is, however, is Welwyn Garden City, which doesn’t accept Oyster, isn’t served by TfL trains and also – this feels important – isn’t an airport.

And meanwhile a large chunk of Surrey suburbia inside the M25 isn’t shown, even though it must have a greater claim to be a part of London’s rail network than bloody Reading.

The result of all these decisions is that the map covers an entirely baffling area whose shape makes no sense whatsoever. Here’s an extremely rough map:

Just, what? Image: Google Maps/CityMetric.

I mean that’s just ridiculous isn’t it.

While we’re at it: the latest version shows the piers from which you can get boats on the Thames. Except for when it doesn’t because they’re not near a station – for example, Greenland Pier, just across the Thames to the west of the Isle of Dogs, shown here with CityMetric’s usual artistic flair.

Spot the missing pier. You can’t, because it’s missing. Image: TfL/CityMetric.

I’m sure there must be a logic to all of this. It’s just that I fear the logic is “what makes life easier for the TfL cartography team” rather than “what is actually valuable information for London’s rail passengers”.

And don’t even get me started on this monstrosity.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.