It's official: 2011 will be the year of the wild hog in Michigan, or at least the year that feral swine are officially declared an invasive species in the state. Like Asian carp with legs, these animals pose threats to native critters in Michigan. Unlike Asian carp, they've already invaded the Great Lakes state (years ago). Outgoing Michigan environmental director Rebecca Humphries has signed an order to declare the pigs invasive, but she gave legislators until July 2011 to implement rules that will allow the pigs to continue to be bred and hunted on game ranches.
Sometimes you have to compromise to make baby steps toward progress. Is that the case here? Or is this new regulation just not strict enough to curtail wild hog problems in the state? Michigan is overrun with feral pigs specifically because of game ranches that allowed the savage swine to escape in the first place, then breed and multiply. There are now as many as 5,000 feral swine roaming the state.
“Feral swine pose a significant risk to Michigan’s wildlife, ecosystems and agricultural resources and they are a serious disease threat to humans, wildlife and domesticated pigs,” Humphries said in a statement. She's leaving the public sector to take a position as a director of Ducks Unlimited in January.
Currently, there are 65 game ranches in Michigan with feral swine hunting or breeding facilities, according to the Detroit Free Press. Michigan lawmakers have until July 8 to enact regulations, or it will become illegal to possess wild boar anywhere in the state.
Even with regulations, aren't these pigs a serious enough threat to warrant a full ban? Maybe we also should allow fish farms to breed Asian carp, so people can pay to catch them, as along as there are regulations? Bring the kids. Make an afternoon of it.
According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment, the pig order lists "wild or feral boar/swine/hog, Old World swine, razorback, Eurasian wild boar and Russian wild boar" as invasive species.
The agency notes in a news release on the pending ban that "a vast majority of the feral swine running at large in Michigan are animals that have escaped from hunting or breeding facilities."
Proposed regulations to keep the hogs from getting loose (again) include fencing standards, biosecurity measures, methods of inventory, liability for escaped animals, indemnity, fees to support regulation and penalties for violation. You've got to wonder if it will be enough.
Michigan DNRE Wildlife Chief Russ Mason said earlier this year that he doesn't think regulations will solve the pig problems. “Feral pigs are obviously a threat to (the pork) industry and obviously can’t be contained because they have never been contained anywhere on the planet," he told The Grand Rapids Press.
The Michigan Pork Producers Association supports an outright ban, for fear of the wild ones spreading diseases to commercial hogs. They note that the state is already in a budget crisis, without funding for the estimated $700,000 annual cost of enforcement.
Photo: Missouri Department of Conservation