On Sunday, April 1, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources began active enforcement of an Invasive Species Order declaring certain types of swine illegal in Michigan.

As part of that effort on Tuesday, April 3 the department’s Law Enforcement Division conducted inspections of six properties that in the past may have had prohibited swine. The inspections were conducted with permission of the landowners. Each of the properties was found to be free of prohibited swine and therefore in compliance with the Invasive Species Order.

Those facilities, farms or individuals still in possession of prohibited swine are in violation of the law and could face criminal or civil penalties under Part 413 of the state’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act.

“Our intent from the beginning of this Invasive Species Order has been to enforce the law while minimizing the impact on individuals and livelihoods,” said Department of Natural Resources Director Rodney Stokes. “For that reason, we provided additional time and assistance for ranch owners, breeders and others to remove prohibited animals from their properties prior to the April 1 enforcement deadline. The additional time allowed property owners to adjust their business plans to minimize economic hardship. We will continue to work cooperatively with property owners where we can.”

Sus scrofa Linnaeus, the scientific name for the prohibited animals, can pose a significant threat to the environment and to domestic pork production. The animals have been known to carry several diseases and parasites, including hog cholera (classic swine fever), pseudorabies, brucellosis, tuberculosis, salmonellosis, anthrax, ticks, fleas, lice and various worms. When released into the wild, the animals are highly mobile, making it easy for them to spread disease quickly in Michigan’s wildlife and domestic livestock populations. One sow can produce two litters of four to six piglets in a year’s time, increasing the threat.

The swine engage in two types of behavior that damage soils, crops and water — rooting and wallowing. Their rooting behavior, during which they dig for food below the soil surface, causes erosion, damages lawns and farm lands, and weakens plants and native vegetation. Wallowing behavior, during which swine seek out areas of shallow water to roll in mud, increases turbidity in ponds and streams and increases erosion along stream banks, which affects water quality.

The DNR in December 2010 issued an Invasive Species Order outlawing certain types of swine in Michigan. The order went into effect Oct. 8, 2011. In order to give those in possession of prohibited swine every opportunity to come into compliance with the law,  Director Stokes delayed enforcement of the order for an additional six months, until April 1, 2012.

In the absence any other regulations for the swine, the DNR is moving ahead with the next phase of implementation of the Invasive Species Order. A declaratory ruling from the DNR, issued Dec. 13, 2011, lists the specific physical characteristics the DNR will use to determine if particular swine are prohibited. Those characteristics are:

  • Bristle-tip coloration: Sus scrofa exhibit bristle tips that are lighter in color (e.g., white, cream, or buff) than the rest of the hair shaft. This expression is most frequently observed across the dorsal portion and sides of the snout/face, and on the back and sides of the animal’s body.
  • Dark “point” coloration: Sus scrofa exhibit “points” (i.e., distal portions of the snout, ears, legs, and tail) that are dark brown to black in coloration, and lack light-colored tips on the bristles.
  • Coat coloration: Sus scrofa exhibit a number of coat coloration patterns. Patterns most frequently observed among wild/feral/hybrid types are: wild/grizzled; solid black; solid red/brown; black and white spotted; black and red/brown spotted.
  • Underfur: Sus scrofa exhibit the presence of underfur that is lighter in color (e.g., smoke gray to brown) than the overlying dark brown to black bristles/guard hairs.
  • Juvenile coat pattern: Juvenile Sus scrofa exhibit striped coat patterns. This consists of a light grayish-tan to brown base coat, with a dark brown to black spinal stripe and three to four brown irregular longitudinal stripes with dark margins along the length of the body.
  • Skeletal appearance: Sus scrofa skeletal structure is distinct. Structures include skull morphology, dorsal profile, and external body measurements including tail length, head-body length, hind foot length, ear length, snout length, and shoulder height.
  • Tail structure: Sus scrofa exhibit straight tails. They contain the muscular structure to curl their tails if needed, but the tails are typically held straight. Hybrids of Sus scrofa exhibit either curly or straight tail structure.
  • Ear structure: Sus scrofa exhibit erect ear structure. Hybrids of Sus scrofa exhibit either erect or folded/floppy ear structure.

More information about the Invasive Species Order and the problem of invasive swine in Michigan and across the country can be found at www.michigan.gov/feralswine.

Photo: Just chaos

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