MSUToday
Published: Oct. 3, 2014

Feral swine study to assess statewide impact

Contact(s): Eileen Gianiodis Agriculture and Natural Resources office: (517) 432-1555, ext. 230 cell: (517) 242-4753 gianiod1@msu.edu

A new study will pair MSU researchers with researchers from the University of Michigan-Flint to learn more about one of the state’s most potentially destructive invasive species, feral swine.

The approximately $500,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources also pulls in resources from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“To eradicate feral swine from Michigan, we need to develop a better understanding of their ecology -- specifically, how they use and disperse through landscapes,” said Gary Roloff, associate professor in the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.

He is co-leader on the grant with Robert Montgomery, also an assistant professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.

The study involves trapping and collaring up to 18 feral swine in the central Lower Peninsula to get a better idea of their hourly, daily and seasonal movements, and habitat use patterns in the state. Another aspect of the project is to quantify agricultural and environmental damage caused by feral swine.

This summer, researchers honed their trapping and collaring skills on a single feral swine. Roloff said that researchers were interested in testing the collaring process, the collar design and the fit of the collar on the swine. A large trapping effort to catch 17 to 18 more pigs will start in January 2015.

During the five-year project, MSU researchers will measure the location and extent of feral swine rooting activities and movement, develop a predictive model of how feral swine use habitat and evaluate the efficacy of techniques for controlling feral swine populations.

Researchers from the University of Michigan-Flint will monitor swine for the presence of diseases and parasites, as well as potential disease transmission routes from feral swine to wildlife, livestock and humans. Feral swine are known to carry diseases that could have negative consequences on Michigan’s pork industry if they’re transmitted from feral to domestic swine.

Karmen Hollis, a wildlife epidemiologist at the University of Michigan-Flint, will focus on disease progression in feral swine and how diseases are transmitted from feral swine to livestock and some wildlife.

Roloff said that one of the main reasons for the Michigan research is that most of the information available on feral swine in the United States is based on Southern studies.

“The feral swine in Michigan that are the focus of our research are the pure Russian boar breed. Hybrid swine tend to be more common in the South. Given the different breed, climate and environmental conditions in more northern latitudes, the MDNR believed it worthwhile to fund the study,” Roloff said.