HELENA — Wild hogs have no business in Montana, according to legislation proposed Thursday that aims to keep the animals out of the state.
Sen. Cliff Larsen introduced the bill in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation. The Missoula Democrat said the state needs to defend its territory from the swine he called an invasive species.
“This is a far more serious matter than we might believe,” Larsen said, although he couldn’t resist making a joke about “hogging” the microphone.
Board of Livestock officials said while Montana doesn’t have any of the animals at the present time, the matter came up after a man brought three wild hogs from Texas to Montana in 2013. The owner agreed to destroy the animals, according to Martin Zaluski, a state veterinarian.
“From that we realized we lack some authority over a species of animal that’s been shown to be highly destructive of habitat and has the potential to bring diseases to livestock,” Zaluski said. “For those reasons, we’re asking the Legislature to look at this bill.”
Between 1982 and 2010, the number of states where feral swine are found has doubled, Zaluski added, saying it’s difficult to eradicate the animals once they arrive because they’re smart and because people wanting to hunt them will try to keep them in an area.
According to the USDA, wild pigs are known to be in 39 states and can carry a form of brucellosis.
Under Senate Bill 100, the Board of Livestock would have the authority to ban the possession and hunting of wild hogs and could establish penalties for those not abiding by the rules. The board could also control and eradicate the animals.
While no one spoke at the meeting against the bill, one committee member, Democratic Sen. Sharon Stewart-Peregoy, of Crow Agency, asked if someone raising free-range pigs would run into problems with the proposed law.
Zaluski said he’d want to check on any minimally organized hog raising in the state and acknowledged it was a gray area.
He also said federal money is available for the eradication of the swine should they move to the state and he’d provide more information about that to Stewart-Peregoy and the committee.