The Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL) is asking residents to remain vigilant about the presence of feral swine. Though there have been no confirmed sightings in Montana, populations are spreading and the risk of introduction to Montana is high.
Feral swine are an invasive species that damage crops, pastures, and waterways, and these animals can carry diseases that spread to livestock, people, and wildlife. The biggest risk of introduction to Montana is swine crossing the border from Canada. Though, with at least 39 U.S. states reporting the presence of feral swine, the risk of illegal imports (intentionally introducing feral swine) for the purposes of hunting, is very concerning.
Montana’s laws defining feral swine include any hog, boar, or pig that appears to be untamed, undomesticated, or in a wild state, or appears to be contained for commercial hunting or trapping. MDOL has received several calls from Montana landowners recently, reporting suspect feral swine sightings, though all have been determined to be privately-owned animals.
“We have been encouraged by the number of calls that we have received” says Dr. Tahnee Szymanski with the Department of Livestock. “This tells us that landowners understand the threat these animals pose.”
While Montana law permits a private landowner or lessee to eradicate feral swine on their land or land under their control (a single attempt at the initial sighting), this has been shown to be an ineffective management option. Eradication attempts by an individual are unlikely to kill all the animals within the group.
Animals that are not successfully eradicated can disperse further onto the landscape and learn behaviors to help them evade further attempts by landowners. Feral swine are also prolific breeders and failed attempts to kill an entire group can lead to exponential growth of feral swine numbers. Such growth has been documented in states and provinces that allow recreational hunting.
Because of the challenges with a private landowner successfully eradicating an entire group of feral swine, and prior reports confirmed to be privately-owned domestic animals, MDOL strongly encourages individuals to call first. Reports can be directed to the Squeal on Pigs hotline at 406-444-2976.
For more information on the Squeal on Pigs campaign, visit invasivespecies.mt.gov/montana-invasive-species/squeal-on-pigs.