Image Source/Texas Wildlife Services
With a name like "Squeal on Pigs," you know it's got to be a serious project. And serious is exactly how officials with the Washington Invasive Species Council describe the potential threat posed by feral swine, which have already spread to Oregon and Idaho, and now stand poised to infest Washington ... unless we do something about it.
Image Source/Texas Wildlife Services
According to Invasive Species Council spokesperson Susan Zemek, officials from Washington, Oregon and Idaho regularly meet to discuss invasive species that have the potential to cross state lines - and feral swine, which she says are already abundant in Southwest Oregon, and have been prevalent in Idaho in the past, fit this bill. According to Zemek, the three states attempt to "act like a region," in identifying potential problems, then share "messages, tactics, and strategies," for dealing with them.
While feral swine - feared for their tendency to spread diseases like pseudorabies, brucellosis, and tuberculosis, and a real bitch for agriculture thanks to their tendency to dig - have already left their mark on Oregon, Idaho and many other parts of the country, Zemek says Washington is in the "enviable position" to be proactive about the potential problem. She says the goal of the Squeal on Pigs campaign is to familiarize residents of our state with the issue, teach people how to identify feral swine, and then encourage folks to report the hated wayward pigs when they see them.
"We don't believe [feral swine are] a huge problem in Washington, because we've had very few reports," says Zemek, noting there have been two feral swine sightings in our state since the 1990s, one stemming from an actual feral swine population in Southwest Washington that's since been controlled, and another unconfirmed sighting near Montesano roughly five months ago.
Still, Zemek says, "There's not a big awareness," of the issue among the general population, which is something the Squeal on Pigs campaign aims to change. And since a feral swine problem could potentially cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars should the species gain a foothold here, the Washington Invasive Species Council has opted for the proactive approach.
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According to the Washington Invasive Species Council website, feral swine - "prolific breeders" that were brought to the United States from Europe and Asia and have since escaped or been set free, causing a free-ranging scourge - are extremely aggressive. The animals prefer a habitat with abundant water and dense cover, but are also "extremely adaptable." They range in color from their usual black, to gray, brown, red, or spotted combinations of these shades. Females typically weigh between 77 and 330 pounds, while a feral boar can weigh anywhere from 130 to a whopping 440 pounds. The animals feature elongated snouts that are flattened on the end, with males packing four sharp tusks that grow continuously. The upper tusks can be 3-5 inches long, though the website notes these are usually broken or worn down from use.
And, as Zemek points out, the bastards can swim - meaning rivers, like, oh, say, the Columbia, won't stop the migration of feral swine. Zemek says feral swine also dig like crazy, which can be extremely destructive to agricultural fields as well as ponds and wetlands, where aquatic vegetation can be severely impacted.
So what should you do if you encounter feral swine, or an animal you suspect to be of the feral swine persuasion? Not surprisingly, the Squeal on Pigs campaign has created a hotline and online system where reports can be made and later investigated by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Zemek says if a feral swine population is confirmed by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, the pigs will be trapped, removed or killed.
Operation Squeal on Pigs is in full effect.