BOISE – Northwest states have launched a campaign to combat the latest invasive species that’s turned up in all three states — feral pigs.
Originating in Europe and Asia and imported and intended for domestic use, the pigs, also known as Russian boar, can grow to several hundred pounds, turn wild and cause extensive damage to crops, wildlife and habitat. The invasive species councils of Washington, Idaho and Oregon want folks to be on the lookout for the swine in the wild and report them if seen; the campaign is called “Squeal on Pigs.”
It’s not just the pigs’ destructive rooting and grubbing. Feral swine, defined as any pig that is not confined within a fenced property, often carry diseases that can be transmitted to livestock or humans. They prey on lambs, calves, fawns, upland birds and other wildlife and they’re remarkably fertile, producing a couple of litters of four to eight piglets a year.
“They establish in new areas fairly easily,” said Lisa DeBruyckere, Oregon’s invasive species council coordinator. Oregon estimates it has between 3,000 and 5,000 wild pigs, mostly in the central and southwestern parts of the state.
Feral swine caused $52 million worth of damage in Texas, a heavily infested state, last year; Pacific Northwest states say they don’t want their region to follow suit.
“Eradicating this species before it becomes established in the Pacific Northwest will prevent the transmission of disease and environmental damage,” said Dr. Bill Barton, Idaho state veterinarian.
Idaho identified a population of about 100 feral pigs in the Bruneau River area in southern Idaho in 2009 that’s since been successfully eradicated through trapping and hunting. “They didn’t find any this year,” said Amy Ferriter, Idaho’s invasive species council coordinator.
A handful of feral swine sightings have been reported in southwestern Washington. There has been one sighting in Eastern Washington. A pig population boom on the Olympic Peninsula in 2001 was targeted through hunting; the Quinault Indian Nation had long hunted wild swine in the area.
Oregon has received scattered reports of sightings of the wild swine, in addition to its identified populations. That’s what all three states are hoping for — to identify the pigs and eradicate them before they take hold.
“That’s really why we’re trying to get the word out,” Ferriter said. “If people see these things in the wild, they should report them to us.”
The “Squeal on Pigs” campaign includes a toll-free hotline number to call: (888) 268-9219.