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What are "feral swine" and why do we care about them so much in Minnesota?

By the Minnesota Board of Animal Health
Originally appeared in MN Board of Animal Health’s Animal Bytes November 2022

Feral swine in a field.

Is a pig, just a pig? Well no, there are many different terms for members of the suidae family of mammals. What many people think of when they hear "pig" is a portly animal raised in a pen. However, sometimes those farm animals can break out of their fence and find a new home in the wild, which is not a good thing for our state. Pigs can cause significant damage to ecosystems and introduce disease concerns for domestic pigs. They are also difficult to remove once established. These are some of the terms you may hear when we talk about pigs in the wild:
  • Feral swine: swine that live in the wild.
  • Wild boar: generalized slang term used to reference anything from loose domestic pigs (any gender) to confined or unconfined swine of the species Sus scrofa, native to Eurasia and Northern Africa.
  • Eurasian Wild Pig: swine with Sus scrofa genetics.
  • Russian Wild Boar: generally the same species as Eurasian Wild Pig.
Minnesota is currently considered free of established herds of feral swine. However, loose pig sightings are becoming more common. All “livestock at large” fall under the regulatory jurisdiction of local law enforcement and sightings should be immediately reported to the local county sheriff's department.

The Board and DNR are additionally contacted for support and guidance due to the vested interest in both agencies to prevent establishment of invasive species with negative impacts on domestic livestock and the environment in the state. Board staff investigate sightings in an attempt to reunite loose pigs with their owners and pen. When owners cannot be identified, the DNR take on the case as a potential invasive species incursion. With help from USDA Wildlife Services, they remove the loose pigs from the landscape.

The Department of Agriculture restricts import of Eurasian Wild Pigs to zoologic/educational facilities and only with a permit pre-movement as well as site inspection for proper containment. The Board further prohibits importation into the state of feral swine or swine that were feral during any part of their lifetime. Importation into the state of feral swine carcasses is also prohibited except for cut and wrapped meat, hides, teeth and finished taxidermy mounts.

If you see loose pigs, report them to local law enforcement. DO NOT attempt to shoot or trap them yourself.

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