Stop Feral Swine in Montana
What are Feral Swine?
Feral Swine are an invasive, non-native species. Over time, pigs have escaped, or were released intentionally, creating free-ranging feral swine populations in the United States and Canada. Prolific breeders, they can produce four to eight piglets per litter and multiple litters per year. Feral Swine are highly adaptable but prefer habitats with an abundant supply of water and dense cover. They are aggressive and pose serious ecological, economic, and health threats.
Species like the Russian or European boar were brought to the United States as domestic pigs from Europe and Asia and are considered the traditional species of Feral Swine. Both species, as well as hybrids, are prohibited under Administrative Rules of Montana (ARM).
Domestic swine species can also revert to a feral state in just a few generations. Because of this, Montana’s laws defining feral swine do not include a genotypic definition. Instead, Feral Swine in Montana 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.
The 2015 Legislature gave authority over the control and eradication of Feral Swine to the Department of Livestock (DOL). Since that time, DOL has worked closely with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP), the United States Department of Agricultures’ Wildlife Services (USDA-WS), and the Montana Invasive Species Council (MISC) on preventing Feral Swine introduction in to Montana.
Why are Feral Swine Prohibited in Montana?
Feral Swine are an invasive species that damages crops, pastures, and waterways, and these animals can carry diseases that spread to livestock, people, and wildlife. Because of their destructive nature, DOL worked with FWP, USDA-WS, and industry to pass laws prohibiting Feral Swine presence in Montana. The laws were written recognizing the hunting constituency that rapidly builds after Feral Swine are established and the difficulty in eradicating populations once established. The law also includes penalties for violations. These include fines up to $10,000 per violation and repayment of costs incurred in the eradication of Feral Swine.
What are the Specific Prohibitions Pertaining to Feral Swine?
The following actions are prohibited in the state of Montana:
- Importing, transporting or possessing live feral swine.
- Intentionally, knowingly, or negligently allowing swine to live in a feral state.
- Hunting, trapping, or killing of Feral Swine.
- Assisting in hunting, trapping, or killing of Feral Swine.
- Intentionally feeding Feral Swine.
- Expanding the range of Feral Swine.
- Profiting from the release, hunting, trapping or killing of Feral Swine.
Why is Hunting Feral Swine for Sport Prohibited?
The 2015 Legislature passed a bill banning hunting of Feral Swine based on the following facts:
- A group of Feral Swine is called a sounder. If a sounder is detected and not all of the sounder is killed, animals that escape can disperse further on the landscape and learn behaviors to help them evade further attempts at hunting.
- Feral Swine are prolific breeders. Failed attempts to kill an entire sounder can lead to exponential growth of Feral Swine numbers. Such growth has been documented in states and provinces that allow recreational hunting.
- Experts in other states and Canadian Provinces attribute the severity of their Feral Swine issues to recreational hunting. Once a hunting constituency becomes established, eradication becomes nearly impossible.
Are Feral Swine Here Yet?
No. DOL has been working in partnership with FWP and the USDA-WS to respond to reports of Feral Swine in Montana. Since the prohibition was passed by the 2015 Montana Legislature, DOL has received reports from the public of possible sightings of Feral Swine in Montana. These reports include Feral Swine imported from Texas for hunting purposes, sightings by hunters along river bottoms, and reports from landowners along Montana’s Hi-Line. A report of Feral Swine population in North Central Montana in January 2018 resulted in 13.5 flight hours looking for evidence of Feral Swine in the area. Fortunately, nothing was found.
Why Should I Care?
Feral Swine are aggressive animals that can be extremely destructive to fields, fences, and facilities.
- Feral Swine destroy habitats and young wildlife. Their wallows can affect ponds and wetlands, muddying the water and destroying aquatic vegetation. They can strip a field of crops in one night and pose a threat to ground nesting birds and some endangered species. Feral Swine also aid in the spread of invasive plant species.
- Feral Swine compete with native wildlife for important food supplies and prey on the nests, eggs, and young of native ground nesting birds and reptiles. Feral Swine have also been documented eating deer fawns and actively hunting small mammals and reptiles.
- Feral Swine spread diseases to people, pets and livestock. Feral Swine also can transmit diseases and parasites, such as pseudorabies, brucellosis, and tuberculosis, to livestock and people. In domestic animals, these diseases can cause abortion, infertility, decreased production, and high mortality in newborn animals.
- Feral Swine impact the economy. Feral Swine have been found in at least 39 states and cause up to $2.5 billion in damages in the United States annually. This includes control costs, agricultural production losses, and non-production losses like damage to infrastructure.