Pigs Dive For Clams In Vancouver Lake

October 15, 1924, Oakland Tribune 
When the U. S. Exploring Expedition came to Oregon Country in 1841, Lt. George Foster Emmons spent time at Fort Vancouver before leading an expedition from the Willamette Valley to California, for which he hired Calvin Tibbets to guide and hunt (see pages 27-30 of Calvin Tibbets: Oregon's First Pioneer). On August 1st, Chief Factor John McLoughlin gave Emmons a tour of the Hudson's Bay Company's extensive agricultural facilities at what's now Vancouver Lake, just west of the fort along the north side of the Columbia River. Emmons seemed most impressed with the HBC piggery, as he records in his logbook (underlining is his):
It was here that I first learned that a pig would voluntarily dive under water. Dr. McL assuring me that he had frequently witnessed this curious anomaly and watched them until they reached the shore & dispatched their prize which was nothing more nor less than a species of clam or oyster.
My father, Art Sutherland, reminded me of this incident when I told him I'd be presenting at the Fort Vancouver Visitor Center May 19. He first mentioned it while printing Emmons' journal by hand years ago so that I could more easily read it. I wasn't sure I wanted to put this in my PowerPoint because it seemed far-fetched. I thought McLoughlin might be pulling Emmons' leg or trying to sabotage his report. But I decided to look into it. 

Eventually, I found another account of pigs diving for clams in a historical newspaper database. In 1924 Mr. and Mrs. Owen Kenney were obviously impressed by what they saw while vacationing in Northern California
...the pigs dive fearlessly into the water and mud until only their hind legs remain above the surface of the water. They come to the surface every few minutes with a lucsious mouthful of fresh clams, which after being skillfully scooped out of their shells, are devoured.
This reminded me that when we rafted Vancouver Lake as kids we knew better than to get out of the rubber boat because the mud was deeper than the water. And I chuckled at the image of hundreds of HBC pig rumps jiggling about on the surface.  

On YouTube, I found videos owild pigs swimming in the Bahamas and a group of them trained by a Chinese farmer to jump 10' from the end of a chute into a pond. I found no video of pigs scrounging for clams, but it now certainly seems credible that they were capable of learning how to do it. A couple farms still operate on the shores of Vancouver Lake, but none of them raise pigs and I imagine that seeding the lake with clams to feed them would be outrageously expensive if they did. Perhaps Clark County could make it a feature of their Vancouver Lake Regional Park

An introduction to Calvin Tibbets and more stories like this are available on the Home page