Feral pigs are the target of legislation in state Assembly

Staff Report

Madison – For the second time, state Assemblyman Lee Nerison, of
Westby, has introduced a bill that would require the state DNR to
classify feral pigs as harmful wild animals.

The bill would make it unlawful to bring feral pigs into the
state, possess them, keep them, or release them.

Nerison said it was a coincidence that the Clark County
pseudorabies cases were announced when he was going to reintroduce
the bill, which ‘ran out of time’ during the last session.

Some believe the recent outbreak of the disease in Clark County
may have come from wild pigs that allegedly were brought to the
state from Texas by Clark County residents.

Nerison said in 2004, there were only 13 counties with confirmed
sightings of wild pigs. Last year, there were 33 counties.

The DNR says feral pigs are exotic, non-native wild animals that
pose significant threats to both the environment and to
agricultural operations. The DNR promotes aggressive removal
anywhere feral pigs are reported. Feral pigs are considered
unprotected wild animals with no closed season or harvest
limit.

Feral pigs may be removed any time throughout the year as long
as those choosing to pursue them possess a valid small-game license
and the permission of the landowner where they intend to hunt.
Landowners may shoot feral pigs on their own property, without a
hunting license, under DNR’s animal nuisance control authority.

It is illegal to operate a captive feral pig-hunting facility in
the state of Wisconsin. It is also illegal to stock feral pigs for
hunting purposes or to release hogs into the wild.

Meanwhile, tests on Clark County swine in two quarantined areas
were negative. Two infected herds were destroyed.

Completion of testing and herd depopulation in the two areas
meant state animal health officials met the U.S. Department of
Agriculture’s 15-day deadline for finishing those tasks and
retaining Wisconsin’s pseudorabies-free status.

Under federal rules, those farms within two miles of the two
infected herds will need to be retested after the infected farms
are cleaned and disinfected, but will not be quarantined in the
meantime.

All told, swine from 68 farms were tested, including the two
infected herds. A total of 21 animals tested positive – 10 from the
original 300-head herd near Greenwood and 11 from a herd near
Loyal. Animals in the two herds had been exposed to one another
when a boar from the Greenwood farm was taken to the Loyal farm for
use in breeding.

Losing Wisconsin’s pseudorabies-free status would mean that
producers have to test for the disease before shipping animals out
of state. In 2005, Wisconsin producers shipped 182,000 swine out of
state. Wisconsin’s pork production in 2005 was worth $120 million,
with a total swine herd of 430,000 animals.

The state of Michigan banned swine imports from Wisconsin when
the pseudorabies outbreak occurred (in 2005), and Kansas imposed
some testing requirements on Wisconsin swine entering that state.
Those restrictions remain in place until further notice. No other
states took action.

Pseudorabies often kills newborn pigs and causes abortion or
stillbirth in sows, but usually causes only respiratory symptoms in
healthy adult hogs. They can carry the virus without symptoms and
without transmitting it until stress or other factors activate
it.

Other species, including cattle, goats, sheep, horses, cats, and
dogs can contract the virus from pigs, most commonly by bites. They
usually die within 48 to 72 hours, often showing symptoms similar
to rabies, although the virus is not related to the rabies virus.
These other species do not transmit the disease.

Although pseudorabies was first detected in the United States
nearly 200 years ago, it only began causing significant swine
losses in the early 1960s. Wisconsin’s infection rate peaked in
1989 with 60 infected herds, and the last case in Wisconsin was
reported in 1998.

For more on feral pig hunting in Wisconsin, visit
www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/wildlife/HUNT/Pig/Pig_Hunting.htm.

Correspondent Kevin Naze contributed to this report.

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