FERAL FRIDAY: FERAL SWINE, BAD FOR MICHIGAN!
By Taylor Renton, AmeriCorps Member, MUCC Wildlife Habitat Volunteer Coordinator
Feral swine will never be a game animal in Michigan, they are an invasive nuisance species. Anyone who thinks otherwise should take a look at the destruction they’ve caused in southern states (more to come on that), we don’t want that here! Feral swine can be found in at least 39 states, and that number is not decreasing any time soon. These animals are so good at surviving that many places have given up on eradication and now population control is the only option left. Feral swine negatively impact the agricultural and natural resources wherever they are found.
With average weights between 75 and 250 pounds, they are destructive eating machines as well as breeding machines. A female pig can begin breeding at 6 months of age, have litters of 3 to 8 on average, and this can happen twice a year. With this kind of reproduction rate, they can easily over-populate an area before you know it. Females and their young travel in large groups called “sounders”, while the males generally travel alone. Since feral swine home ranges can vary from a few hundred to several thousand acres, they can damage a lot of ground.
One of the biggest problems with feral swine is that they are omnivores that feed by rooting or grazing (click here for damage photos and other signs from Michigan). This characteristic causes major problems to agriculture and to our natural resources. Feral swine can decimate a field of crops very quickly. They eat or trample the crops, not to mention they will go through and eat rows and rows of newly planted seeds. Their rooting behavior (digging and turning up soil with their noses) and the wallows they bathe in can create uneven ground, potentially damaging the farm equipment. Not only do feral swine destroy crops and equipment, they can also affect livestock. Feral swine can transmit many diseases to livestock such as pseudorabies or brucellosis (look for a Feral Swine Diseases blog in 2 weeks). These diseases could decimate the commercial swine industry in Michigan. Aside from diseases, feral swine have been known to eat newborn animals such as lambs, goats, and calves. Yes, pigs will eat baby animals.
Maybe you don’t farm, or you’re still thinking feral swine might make a good game animal? Think again! Feral swine can also do major damage to our natural resources here in Michigan. Anyone who hunts or fishes should be worried about an increasing swine population. Food plots get destroyed just as much as commercial crops, but they can also impact native habitat, cold water streams, and the wildlife themselves. Private and public land managers take great care, time and effort in providing wildlife habitat, but what was once a great field planted with clover for deer season can be turned into a rooted muddy mess overnight. That great oak forest you have your tree stand hung high in could become overrun by swine. If acorns are available, that’s their food of choice and they can outcompete any of our native species. Deer and turkey alike will suffer from the loss of hard mast available in their diet. Pigs eat like pigs and their voracious appetite can also stunt forest regeneration, which will impact the wildlife habitat for years to come.
A taste for venison?! A feral swine caught carrying off a dead spotted fawn.
Just like with young livestock, pigs will eat deer fawns along with the eggs and chicks of ground-nesting birds (think turkey and grouse). And if you’re less of a hunter and enjoy fishing more, our streams are not safe either. Feral swine tear up river banks, reduce water quality by increasing turbidity and erosion, and increase the possibility of bacterial contamination. Some of our amazing blue ribbon trout streams could be ruined by a large pig population. Hunting and fishing in Michigan will be damaged by feral swine.
Wouldn’t it be great to be one of the few states to eradicate their feral swine population BEFORE this becomes a widespread problem? That can’t happen without the help of sportsmen and women in every part of Michigan. YOU are the ones in the woods. YOU are the ones seeing the signs ( https://mucc.org/feral-friday-seen-feral-swine/ ). YOU are the ones who need to report feral swine!
Report all signs and sightings to Nate Newman at USDA Wildlife Services (517-336-1928 ext 23) or online to the Michigan DNR ( www.michigan.gov/feralswine ).
Next week, we’ll let you know what you can do to take matters into your own hands if you encounter a feral swine on the loose while you are hunting.
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