The MAGIE, one of the largest ag trade shows in the state, will have a new - and daunting - exhibit this year.
With invasive species coming into Montana, whether it is a weed such as horseweed or Palmar Amaranth, an aquatic invasive species, such as mussel larvae, or feral hogs that can decimate crops and rangeland, the Montana Invasive Species Council wants to help find and eliminate it.
“This is our first year at the MAGIE, and we are sharing the booth with Fish, Wildlife & Parks. Our goal is to bring awareness to invasive species, work with partners, and find out what can be done,” said Stephanie Criswell.
The Council has an immense portfolio, so they pull together all kinds of agencies to help them get out the information to farmers, ranchers, outdoorsmen and others.
“Feral pigs are our biggest threat right now, and it is huge problem,” Criswell said.
Reports from Canada say while half a million wild swine live in the South. Canada has a massive and destructive swine problem.
“Feral swine are very close to the border and they could be here soon. North Dakota has already found wild swine within their borders. The state is eradicating them as quickly as they find the swine invading,” she said.
Eight feral pigs were spotted just above Lincoln County, Mont., border, recently. Montana state and U.S. federal official are monitoring the border, planning to hunt the pigs from the air, with the help of high-tech equipment like night-vision goggles and thermal-imaging scopes, should they come across the border.
“They aren’t here yet but it is only a matter of time before they are here,” Criswell said.
Several years ago, North Dakota found groups of wild pigs in Grassy Butte, about 45 miles from Dickinson, and at the Turtle Mountain Reservation in the north central region. They were eradicated.
Multiple threats are coming from these feral hogs, according to Criswell.
“These feral swine carry 30 plus diseases, including brucellosis and African Swine Fever,” she said.
“We could have a really big export problem if they mix with our domestic pig herd. They can eradicate our other livestock,” she said.
Wild hogs cause damage to crops, compete with other game for habitat, prey on ground-nesting birds such as pheasants, ducks and turkeys, produce more than one litter per year and are almost impossible to get rid of once they’ve established themselves.
Feral hogs can transit 37 parasites to livestock, people, pets and wildlife.
One state in the South gave up on peanut farming because so many feral swine kept eating the crop and ruining the land.
The Montana Invasive Species Council is working with other states and the Canadian provinces to monitor the influx and exchange data. The University of Saskatchewan conducted a study that showed the feral hog population was growing at 9 percent every year, and the wild hogs were spread in Canadian provinces 46,000 square miles.
“We are preparing our response just like they are doing for Foot-and-Mouth disease,” she said.
The Montana Invasive Species Council was proactively created by the Montana Governor’s office in 2015 and tasked with identifying the main invasive species issues and making recommendations to improve invasive species management.
The Montana Invasive Species Council will hold its next meeting on Jan. 8, from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. in Room 172 of the Montana State Capitol. The meeting will include updates on feral swine detection and prevention activities.
Check out their booth at the MAGIE, and bring your questions about invasive species and the Montana Invasive Species Council.