By LACEE SHEPARD Special to the Record-Eagle
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — LANSING — The number of feral swine in Michigan significantly decreased, according to Department of Natural Resources reports, but at least one interest group says the numbers are wrong.
The report shows three counties — Mecosta, Midland and Saginaw — had the highest numbers of feral swine in 2012.
In 2012, there were 16 killings of wild swine in Mecosta County and five additional sightings. So far this year, the number dropped to six killings and no additional sightings.
In the three counties with the most animals, more than 40 feral swine were reported in 2012, in contrast to fewer than 10 this year.
Mary Kelpinski, executive director of Michigan Pork Producers Association, based in East Lansing, isn’t sure feral swine numbers truly are down.
“The info you’re seeing are just confirmed sightings – many will see the pig and not report it,” Kelpinski said. “Unfortunately, the population of pigs seems to be growing.”
Wild pigs raise concern about infecting farmed pigs, Kelpinski said.
“They’ve been known to carry quite a few diseases, all diseases we’ve eradicated from the commercial swine industry, and we really want to keep our pigs healthy,” said Kelpinski.
Feral pigs also are known for destroying land, she said. From golf courses and residential property, they have moved to agricultural land.
Wild pigs also are a problem for natural resources because they are known for attacking small fawns and ground birds, said Kelpinski. They will also compete with native species for food, such as acorns, taking it from smaller animals.
There was a release of feral swine in Midland County in the mid–2000s, and the problem grew from there, said Tim Wilson, a wildlife biologist with the DNR.
The main goal now is to control or eliminate the swine population to avoid the type of considerable hog damage that has been found in Texas and Florida, he said.
It’s difficult to get rid of feral swine due to their elusiveness, said Amy Trotter, resource policy manager at Michigan United Conservation Clubs.
“We want to be really aggressive in Michigan. If you can get ahead of an invasive species, you can actually have hope,” Trotter said. “It’s when we come in way too late that it’s a matter of management rather than control and elimination. If we can’t eliminate, hopefully we can control them so their population doesn’t get out of control.”
To help keep them under control, the DNR is asking hunters to shoot a feral pig when they spot it, Wilson said. Hunters need only a regular hunting license.
Lacee Shepard writes for Michigan State University’s Capital News Service.