A nationally renowned expert on feral swine says a ban is the best first step toward stopping feral swine from spreading in Michigan and anything short of that could open the floodgates to a full-blown epidemic that will hurt businesses, property owners and taxpayers.
"Only a fence that can hold water can hold feral swine – and so far, there is no such fence in existence," says Dr. Jack Mayer, researcher and manager at the Savannah River National Laboratory in Aiken, S.C. "Michigan still has a chance to stop feral swine from spreading and causing even worse damage than they already have. The key is quick action right now to prevent these invasive species from entering Michigan any more – and then aggressively eradicating them."
Dr. Mayer has studied feral swine since the mid-1970s and is the senior author of "Wild Pigs in the United States," the leading work on feral swine. He has studied feral swine on three continents and has appeared on National Geographic. Dr. Mayer spoke today after two days of lectures and testimony in Lansing to educate legislators, policymakers and others about the dangers of feral swine and the need for Michigan to act now in order to contain one of the worst scourges in nature.
Mayer pointed out a few facts about feral swine:
• Feral swine will eat anything, from crops to young animals to eggs.
• Feral sows can have two litters of about 6 piglets each year, for up to a dozen years.
• Feral swine cause around $1.5 billion in agricultural damages nationwide each year.
• Feral swine cause $36 million in damages to motorists nationally each year.
• While feral swine are extremely secretive and stealthy creatures, they are also highly aggressive when cornered.
• No foolproof method currently exists to enclose feral swine or control their population.
• Hunters would need to kill around 70 percent of the feral swine population to start bringing the number down; at its high end, hunting can only reduce the population by 25 percent.
Dr. Mayer's educational visit comes as the state Legislature considers plans that will open the door to more feral swine, threatening Michigan's agriculture sector and the more than 1 million people it employees. The legislative proposals are Senate Bills 307-310 and House Bills 4503-4507.
"All the science and evidence show that Michigan must shut the door immediately on feral swine, or else this invasive species will spiral out of control and devastate Michigan's livestock sector," says Sam Hines, executive vice president, Michigan Pork Producers Association. More than 6,000 people work in Michigan's pork industry.
"Dairy is Michigan's largest agriculture commodity, generating over $6 billion to our state's economy – and the Legislature's proposals will roll out the red carpet to disease-carrying feral swine that puts our industry, the livelihoods of 2,000 dairy farm families and tens of thousands of jobs in jeopardy," says Ken Nobis, president of the Michigan Milk Producers Association, which serves about 2,100 dairy farmers in Michigan and the surrounding area. Dairy and milk products are Michigan's No. 1 commodity, employing more than 26,500 people.
"Feral swine are carriers of diseases that can harm livestock and people, and letting them in is the equivalent of letting four-legged biological weapons run loose across Michigan," says George House, executive director of Michigan Allied Poultry Industries Inc. "Feral swine must be stopped at our borders and banned before they can do any further damage to Michigan agriculture."
"Michigan agriculture is one of the bright spots in our economy, generating more than $71.3 billion – and putting this entire industry at risk for feral swine is dangerous and irresponsible," says Jim Byrum, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association. "It's important for our policymakers to get input from independent experts like Dr. Jack Mayer and learn about the true dangers of feral swine before they act."
"The Legislature has an opportunity to support and strengthen agriculture and the more than 1 million people who depend on this sector for their livelihoods," says David Armstrong, CEO of GreenStone Farm Credit Services, the nation's sixth largest association in the Farm Credit System. "Letting in more feral swine sends the wrong message. Feral swine is a clear danger to Michigan's economy, and the best way to stop it is to ban it."
"Unless the Michigan Legislature takes tough, serious action against feral swine now, Michigan growers will be at the mercy of this invasive species for years to come," says Ben Kudwa, legislative director of the Potato Growers of Michigan. "Michigan must stop this problem now before it is too late."