Michigan's ban on wild pigs took effect last October, after the state Department of Natural Resources gave lawmakers a good nine months to overrule or refine it. Then the DNR gave owners of wild pigs/boar/swine nearly six more months, until April 1, to get rid of them.
It should have been an orderly process. Instead, Michigan's wild pig ban lit up the Internet as DNR enforcement began this month. But the state should not retreat.
First, let's remember why this is important. Several other states already are overrun with wild pigs and spend millions of dollars a year trying to keep their populations under control, just as keeping sea lamprey under control has become a lamentable but seemingly eternal cost of protecting the Great Lakes. No state should invite this type of problem.
The wild pigs — generally believed to be escapees from hunting ranches, in Michigan's case — can destroy crops, gardens, riverbanks and other areas that provide food and shelter to native wildlife. Not to mention that they sometimes charge people who cross their paths and can make camping or even a hike in the wrong woods a dangerous experience. They breed rapidly. The advice from virtually every state that deals with them is to eradicate them when you still have a chance.
Which is what then-DNR Director Rebecca Humphries set in motion in late 2010, by declaring wild pigs an invasive species and giving the Legislature time before her order took effect to overturn it. Fortunately, the Legislature couldn't muster the votes, and just last week a Senate committee wisely balked at a belated request for action.
But now the state may have to endure months of controversy if the issue continues in court beyond a judge's order Friday that basically upholds the DNR directive. Online, Michigan is being portrayed as trampling property rights, kowtowing to special interests (most of the agriculture community, for starters) and laying the death penalty on cute pigs and innocent piglets.
A few small farm owners who raise specialty pigs for meat, not hunting, may have a legitimate case to seek an exemption. But Michiganders have enough experience with the damage done by nonnative species on the loose to understand that prevention is the only serious solution.
Detroit Free Press