Hogs Gone Wild: The Dirt on Feral Swine

By Jake McCarthy

Throughout much of the world, swine function as part of a healthy ecosystem. The recent emergence of feral swine in Michigan, however, has many people trying to figure out how to get rid of yet another uninvited visitor.

With the state moving to declare feral swine an invasive species, it appears efforts to eliminate the population will soon ramp up, but what exactly is it that has people seeing red over feral swine?

Firstly, they aren’t native to Michigan. Feral swine currently causing concern are either pigs that escaped from livestock operations or wild boars imported from overseas to provide recreational hunting opportunities.
The wild boar is native to much of Europe and Asia, where it serves an important role as both predator and prey. In Michigan, though, they face few predators and pose serious threats to both the environment and agriculture.

A primary concern about feral swine is that, as voracious foragers with few enemies in Michigan, they may overrun native species that depend on a similar diet. Feral swine are opportunistic and omnivorous feeders. They dig up large tracts of land searching for roots, nuts and berries, having a negative effect on agriculture, water and soil quality. They are very efficient reproducers with large litters, a short gestation period, young age of maturity and the potential to have two litters in one year. Feral swine also harbor parasites and diseases that pose a threat to people, pets, livestock and wildlife.

Feral swine ravaged the habitat at MNA’s Timberland Nature Sanctuary in Oakland County approximately two years ago by uprooting plants and trees. Due to their recent presence in southeast Michigan, these swine have the potential to affect the following sanctuaries: Red Cedar River Floodplain, Joan Rodman Memorial, Swan Creek, Saginaw Wetlands and Kernan Memorial.

The wild boar is native to much of Europe and Asia, where it serves an important role as both predator and prey. In Michigan, though, they face few predators and pose serious threats to both the environment and agriculture.

At the same time that Michigan is seeking ways to eliminate feral swine, the animals are valued and even protected throughout much of their native range. Once threatened in Europe and Asia due to hunting pressure, recent resurgences in wild boar populations have been welcomed in England, Germany and Russia. In eastern Russia, boars are important prey for the threatened Amur Tiger. In Europe, they’re food for gray wolves and help keep rodent and deer populations in check.

In Michigan, though, many consider the feral swine to be a nuisance species. Later this year, feral swine will likely be declared an invasive species, which would make them easier to control. Hunters have been encouraged to kill any feral swine they see while hunting in Michigan for several years. Hopefully, efforts such as these will help reduce the impact feral swine have on Michigan’s wildlife and landscape.

Sources: Department of Natural Resources and Environment, United States Department of Agriculture

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One thought on “Hogs Gone Wild: The Dirt on Feral Swine

  1. My son and I are Service vet’s looking to obtain land in which we can help kill off some Feral hogs. Any help would be appreciated- Thanks

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