Despite being declared outlaws in Michigan, wild hogs sure seem to be making themselves at home here — and making more of themselves, too.
Sightings of feral swine are on the rise around the state and the destructive, omnivorous beasts appear to be living up to their reputation as prolific breeders.
“I’d say it’s a problem that is going to emerge. We are seeing more pigs, younger classes of pigs,” said Nancy Frank, assistant state veterinarian in the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. “That is worrisome. We know that.”
Feral swine became an illegal invasive species in Michigan effective April 1 under an order from the state Department of Natural Resources. That means they can be shot on sight by licensed hunters or by property owners who encounter them on private land. But reports of hog problems are increasing, and now include some car-hog accidents.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture remote trail-cam recently captured more than a dozen hogs — adults and young ‘uns — in a single frame in Mecosta County, west of Mt. Pleasant.
“We have certain hot spots in the state,” Frank said in a telephone conversation this week, “around the Midland area, Mecosta, Bay counties, quite a few in Saginaw County.”
While not all reports are confirmed, the DNR has been told of wild hog sightings in 75 of Michigan’s 83 counties, representing 90% of the state. The agency has estimated up to 3,000 are on the loose, escapees or refugees from game farms that imported them for trophy hunters.
“People are more aware to watch for them, so we are getting more reports,” Frank said. “They are strong animals, very intelligent … and fairly cautious. They do like swampy, wet areas where you aren’t going to see a lot of people … but they will go anywhere.”
And will eat just about anything.
Frank said several captured hogs have tested positive for pseudorabies, a disease which can pose a threat to the state’s pork farms.
“It is not transferable to people,” she said. “And it has not been detected in any commercial swine.”
The DNR is embroiled in five lawsuits with hunting ranches over its ban on the animals. Spokesman Ed Golder said no further court proceedings are scheduled in any of the cases until October.
Meantime, the count of hogs in the wild keeps growing. To help the state get a handle on the problem, sightings can be reported to the DNR using a form available at michigan.gov/feralswine. http://www.freep.com/article/20120822/COL32/120822055/Wild-hogs-Michigan-Photo-captures-state-s-growing-feral-swine-problem?odyssey=obinsite