A pig’s tale about an ADOT rescue mission

A pig’s tale about an ADOT rescue mission

By Doug Nintzel / ADOT Communications
January 26, 2024
A pig sits contentedly on blankets and straw in a pen.

Preparing for future freeway projects presents big challenges, but this one was especially BIG. 

Let me introduce you to Pixie the potbelly pig. We’re glad to describe her as a survivor after being discovered on a property ADOT had purchased in 2023 along the corridor for the planned State Route 30 in Avondale.

“I was told someone had spotted Pixie back in November and went out to check for her,” said Ed Green, hazardous material coordinator with ADOT’s Environmental Planning Group. “Sure enough, she was out there on what had been a mini farm. And that’s when, with the help of Chad Rubke from Arizona Game and Fish, we contacted a couple of rescue groups to see what they could do.”

A pig stands outside near a pen that is too small to hold it.
Pixie eats grass rather than the treats left in the pen too small to hold her.

What ensued was a weeks-long adventure for Ed, several rescue volunteers and Jakob Rassi, an ADOT engineer-in-training.

“We were able to get her close to a humane trap but never in it,” said Southwest Team Leader Carrianne Frary from Humane Animal Rescue and Trapping Team (HARTT). The HARTT team worked on finding a way to catch Pixie. The timing was important, since contracted work to clear buildings on the property was nearing.

ADOT Right-of-Way Administrator Paula Gibson arranged for the structure removal to be postponed while the efforts to feed and lure Pixie in were underway.

“Pixie is very large,” said ADOT’s Green. “We did make good use of a Halloween pumpkin as part of her snacking menu.”

Frary says Pixie had a lot of room to roam on the property’s several acres, so she basically was coming and going as she pleased. “I spent more on her food than my own! Her favorite was Cheerios. We added donuts, strawberries and other snacks to her diet.”

The volunteers used a video camera around the clock to also track Pixie. Not surprisingly, what they saw over the course of a couple of weeks was that other animals, including about a half dozen javelinas, a skunk, several raccoons and at least one “incredibly large” cat were also helping themselves to the bait.

A group of people pose together in front of the trunk of a mini van.
HARTT volunteers and the ADOT engineer-in-training after capturing Pixie.

“We figured out the original trap wouldn’t work. That led to some great teamwork to repurpose what had been a pen for chickens,” said Frary.

A special door triggered by a laser beam was added to the stronger structure and sure enough, Pixie was penned in just before Christmas.

“We had so many close calls in our attempts to help Pixie,” said Frary. “I knew exactly when she went in this time. It was a big relief.”

She added that Jakob Rassi, the ADOT engineer-in-training, should be commended. “He stuck it out with us and volunteered to help wherever he could,” said Frary. 

The not-so-small Pixie was relocated to the Cave Creek area ranch operated by Better Piggies Rescue.

Several pigs bunch together in a pen outside. One pig rests its head on another pig's body.
Pixie rests with new friends at Better Piggies Rescue.

“She is doing very well,” said Dannielle Betterman of the rescue group. “She has several other friends on our property, including some of our older pigs.” Betterman estimates Pixie is about two years old. “She has a lot of life left in her.”

The property along Southern Avenue where Pixie once roamed has since been cleared.

Ed Green from ADOT is just glad the “Perils of Pixie” has a happy ending and encourages people to donate to the rescue organizations. You can do that at and