Keeping feral swine out of Big Sky Country is a top priority of the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) -- and for good reason.
The agency is asking residents to remain vigilant about the presence of feral swine. Although there have been no confirmed sightings in Montana, populations are spreading and the risk of introduction is high.
"Feral swine are of a little bit a unique invasive species in the sense that they hit a very wide spectrum of agriculture and beyond. They damage the environment through rooting and nesting behavior," noted Tahnee Szymanski of the livestock department. "They're also predatory and carry diseases that can be transmitted to domestic livestock, certainly pig species, but also cattle, wildlife and even people.
"So, just the amount of damage that they're capable of causing is really the reason that we focus on them," said She says while Montana law permits a private landowner to eradicate feral swine on their land, they’re asked to report the sightings because of the challenge of successfully eradicating the entire group.
"The way that the current law is written, it does allow for a landowner that finds feral swine on their property to shoot those animals if they're concerned about imminent damage that swine may cause. We would ask producers to reconsider whether they shoot first and then call us or whether they call us directly to report them for a couple of reasons. I think most commonly you may see three or four pigs that they may be part of a larger group. So you won't effectively get rid of all of them," Szymanski said.
The biggest risk of introduction to Montana is swine crossing the border from Canada. And reports can be directed to the Squeal on Pigs hotline at (406) 444-2976.