'Squeal on Pigs' campaign launches to keep Canadian swine from going hog-wild in Montana
Wild swine are notorious for damaging property, eating crops and spreading disease
Officials in Montana are marshalling their resources and enlisting the public's help to keep encroaching feral hogs from Canada at bay with a program called "Squeal on Pigs."
The campaign to prevent wild hogs from going hog wild in Montana was outlined at a conference hosted Friday by the Montana Invasive Species Council.
It encourages people to report feral hog sightings to the state Department of Livestock, reporting that officials say is critical to preventing an invasion.
"One of the key weapons against incursions of feral swine is early reporting, because the sooner that we know about an import or a pocket of feral swine, the quicker we can mobilize the state resources and the more efficient we are about exterminating those invasive species," Marty Zaluski, Montana's state veterinarian, told CBC News.
$2.5 billion yearly in damage
The hogs can spread disease and cause widespread property and crop damage.
The most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture estimate put swine damages at $1.5 billion annually. It's probably closer $2.5 billion now, said Dale Nolte, who leads a USDA feral swine damage program.
Zaluski said the wild animals do "an extraordinary amount of damage" to crops, ground nesting birds, lawns and golf courses, and they're capable of spreading disease both to humans and other animals.
"They're really kind of an extraordinary species in regards to the amount and the types of impact they can have," he said.
There's been a population boom of feral hogs in Canada, and photographs taken last year showed the swine within eight kilometres of the U.S. border.
University of Saskatchewan researcher Ryan Brooks said the hogs can be difficult to spot from the air because they bury themselves in mud and also burrow into the snow to make "pigloos."
Montana law prohibits the hunting of feral swine and requires people to report a sighting of the animals within 24 hours. Officials are hoping the "Squeal on Pigs" campaign will create enthusiasm among residents for reporting.
The pigs consume three to five per cent of their body weight each day, from high-dollar crops like watermelons or lettuce, to fawns and songbirds.
Jennifer Ramsey, a wildlife veterinarian with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said she saw feral swine fallout firsthand while attending college in California.
"At that point, my [thought] was, this was an overwhelming problem and we'll never catch up," she said. "If we could avoid getting to that point, it would be great."
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.