OLYMPIA – As hunters head into the woods this fall, four agencies are asking them to watch for signs of feral swine and to report them immediately if found.
The Washington Invasive Species Council, Washington State Department of Agriculture, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Wildlife Services are reminding landowners, hikers, hunters and other recreationists that timely reporting of feral swine allows managers to take quick action to eradicate the animals.
“Rapid response is the most effective and cost-efficient way to prevent the spread of invasive species such as feral swine,” said Laurence Schafer, wildlife biologist for the federal Wildlife Services.
“While reports of feral swine in Washington are rare, isolated populations have been found and response has been swift,” said Justin Bush, executive coordinator of the Washington Invasive Species Council. “If you come across one, it is important to know that the swine pose a great risk to Washington’s wildlife and agriculture. The Washington Invasive Species Council should be contacted immediately.”
Some of what makes feral swine so dangerous is that they damage shorelines and wetlands and degrade water quality, harming other wildlife and the state’s investment in salmon habitat restoration, said Bill Tweit, special assistant with the Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Feral swine also prey on ground-nesting birds. Their digging and rooting erodes stream banks, impacts tree regeneration and removes vegetation.”
Feral swine’s digging and rooting also threaten crops such as potatoes, grapes, pears, apples, cherries, hay, wheat, grain and hops. The value of potentially-affected crops and livestock in Washington State is $8.5 billion.
“The threat of wild pigs to agriculture and the livestock industry should not be underestimated,” said Scott Haskell, the state Department of Agriculture’s assistant state veterinarian. “In addition to the damage they can cause to food crops, feral swine can carry more than 30 diseases and parasites, posing a risk to livestock, pets, wildlife and even people. Feral swine can contaminate livestock feed and, in some cases, even prey upon small livestock animals, like goats and newborn cattle.”
Anyone who observes or suspects the presence of feral swine should immediately call the Squeal on Pigs Hotline, 888-268-9219, or visit www.invasivespecies.wa.gov to submit an online report.