Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

State works to finalize response plan as feral pigs near Montana

Invasive feral swine have been called the “rototillers” of nature. Their longs snouts and tusks allow them to rip and root their way across America in search of food. Unfortunately, the path they leave behind impacts ranchers, farmers, land managers, conservationists, and suburbanites alike.

As feral pig populations in Canada and some nearby states continue to increase, wildlife and agricultural management officials are preparing for feral swine to enter Montana — especially after the carcass of what was potentially a feral pig was found in the state last month.

Samples taken from the carcass, which found along a road in northwest Montana, are currently undergoing genetic testing at a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lab to determine if the pig was in fact a feral swine. It's possible the carcass was a domestic pig that was dumped; biologists with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks report it was found 12 miles away from any domestic pig operations. But, despite their notifications in the area, no one has claimed ownership.

Assistant state veterinarian Dr. Tahnee Syzmanski said in a meeting Wednesday of the Invasive Species Council that the state does not have a feral swine response plan yet, but it is working on one.

“Just getting notifications down so that people know where to report reports of feral swine so that if a game warden in rural Montana gets a report, they know where that information needs to go to," she said. "And we've been hesitant to develop a formal response plan, because every scenario is going to be slightly different."

Syzmanski says another key component in response planning is outreach — making the public, including hunters, aware of feral swine and informing them of what to look out for. Currently, FWP has the program “Squeal on Pigs” where people can report sightings, but the agency hopes to increase awareness further.

The final component of developing a response plan, Szymanski says, is training more personnel to be ready for feral swine responses across land jurisdictions.

Ellis Juhlin is YPR's Statehouse reporter based in Helena.