Eradicating Feral Pigs–Some Successes

MUCC has shared a lot of information on the saga of the swine shooting facilities, political sausage-making at its best and worst. Just yesterday at its 2011 Annual Meeting, voting delegates at the the Michigan Farm Bureau updated its policy to include support for eradicating feral swine as well as support for the DNR Invasive Species Order that officially went into effect in October.

Efforts for the eradication of feral swine have been ongoing since 2007 under the authority of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). The law from May 2010 that allows the shooting of feral swine on public and private land has remained an effective measure, as sightings and killings have decreased since 2007.

To date, feral swine have been reported in 38 counties in 2011 alone, with 48 sightings and 27 kills reported. Midland County has a reported 10 kills as of October. Sighting and kill numbers are on the decline, but feral swine population still remains between 1,000 and 3,000 in Michigan. With less and less reports and kills, new efforts have been adopted in conjunction with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

A new program sponsored by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in partnership with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been piloted to help reduce and monitor feral swine. The program, the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, is typically used to address water quality issues on farms, but is now being used in Midland, Arenac, Bay and Gladwin counties to also address the threats of feral swine. Midland County is one of two counties in Michigan with a swine population that tested positive for pseudo rabies virus (PRV). The new trapping program consists of two phases: scouting for recent signs of activity, and setting, baiting and monitoring traps regularly. Participants are eligible for financial assistance to repair damaged caused by feral swine, a significant incentive for the program. The USDA provides a limited number of traps and has initiated over 100 contracts with landowners since January. Trappers are asked to contact the DNR and MDARD so that they may check captured swine for diseases. So far, 31 hogs have been trapped with 31 traps deployed to the field by the USDA alone.

Eradication efforts have been working to reduce the damage caused by feral swine and prevent the spread of diseases such as PRV and swine brucellosis. Efforts have slowly but successfully accomplished these goals, but there are still obstacles. Landowner cooperation is a significant factor in making these efforts successful. If landowners on one square-mile blocks and larger do not participate in trapping and killing, these lands provide safe havens and prevent total eradication.

Public awareness for the feral swine issue has been increased through flyers and the DNR and MDARD brochures. Currently, there is a public service announcement specifically aimed at hunters, asking them to shoot feral swine while they are out in the woods over deer season. The PSA for feral swine has aired on the Michigan Farm and Garden show, Michigan Out-of-Doors TV and on WTCM A.M. and F.M. on the radio.

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