She’s hard to miss: About 450 pounds with a fatty lump on her rump, pink all over with a strong scent of manure.
Berleen the pig — a gentle infertile sow saved from the butcher — has been missing from her Cobble Hill area farm since Sunday.
And she vanished just two weeks before punching her ticket to a farm sanctuary on the Prairies where she would have lived out the remainder of her days wallowing in the mud.
So is she on the run? Or has big Berleen been pig-napped?
“I believe she was taken,” owner Lee Schroeder said in an interview Friday. “The property is fully fenced and I checked for any holes in the fencing. The gates are closed.
“She’s so affectionate … she could be coaxed away by anyone. It’s heart-breaking.”
Sarien Slabbert, co-founder of a Port Moody-based organization that transports animals to farm sanctuaries, has a 17-foot stock trailer ready to transport Berleen and two holstein cows to Kismet Creek Farm near Steinbach, Man.
The freedom run will leave Aug. 23, but time may be running out for Berleen to catch the ride.
“We don’t have much hope … it’s been so long since she went missing,” Slabbert said Friday.
She said the trip is carefully planned with scheduled stops at farm sanctuaries along the way. The run to Manitoba is the longest yet for the fledgling organization called PEACE (People Ensuring Animal Care Exists), which normally delivers farm animals around B.C. and to Alberta. Most of the regular “no-kill” farms didn’t have room, so the network was expanded into Manitoba.
The owners of Kismet Creek Farm said in a Facebook post they were “devastated” to learn that Berleen had vanished. “We are hoping she will be found safe so she can get the happy ending she deserves.”
Schroeder took Berleen a couple of months ago from a local farmer who had grown attached to the big sow and didn’t want to send her to the slaughterhouse.
Schroeder said he and his partner have several rescued animals on their property, including other pigs, horses and goats.
He said Berleen follows him everywhere and craves human contact. He said he’s even rolled in the mud with her.
But she’s also a handful, rooting though garbage and knocking over the barbecue. He said it was time to find her a “forever home.”
Michelle Singleton, who runs Homes With Hooves sanctuary near Duncan and connected Berleen with the relocating team, said stealing Berleen would take a herculean effort that would take a stock trailer, a lot of of muscle and plenty of patience.
“My experience has been it is not easy to crate a pig or get them on a trailer … it takes an hour,” said Singleton, who has an 800-pounder named Theo, and Lillian, who weighs in at 500.
She said if Berleen is on the lam or lost, she would be easily spotted. Or she could be obscured by forest or brush.
“Pigs are smart and they will forage on plants,” Singleton said. “They will eat just about anything, and can actually go a long time without food.”
Feral pig populations do exist on southern Vancouver Island and other parts of the province.
Packs of wild pigs are so aggressive and destructive that the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations declared open season on them in 2014. Any licensed hunter is allowed to kill them at any time.
The ministry said in 2016 new feral pig populations were emerging in Peace Country and southern Vancouver Island, adding to established groups in the central Interior.