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Serving: WI

Feral Pig: Ag Officials Call Public Meeting in Gays Mills

Pseudorabies may become an issue.

Wisconsin animal health officials have scheduled a meeting in Gays Mills for swine producers and landowners from the surrounding area to talk about the recent finding of a potential pseudorabies case in a feral hog.

The meeting will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 7, in the Gays Mills Community Center, 212 Main St.

The hog was one of four shot in Crawford County during the recent gun deer season. With the help of the hunters who killed the animals, wildlife officials were able to get blood samples for disease testing from three of the animals. One of them, a sow, was positive for pseudorabies on an initial screening test at Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Madison. The sample was sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for confirmation. Because of the quality of the sample, microbiologists there could not get definitive results, but it appeared to be positive.

"We're calling it a presumptive positive," said State Veterinarian Dr. Robert Ehlenfeldt. "We don't have complete confirmation, but we can reasonably assume that the animal carried the virus for pseudorabies.

"This does not mean that we'll lose our pseudorabies-free status – that generally happens only when it's found in a domestic herd and state authorities don't move fast enough and decisively enough to convince the USDA that they have the problem under control. And it doesn't mean that any domestic swine are infected. The hog industry has a record of practicing good biosecurity. It does mean we'll probably be doing some area testing on hog farms to prove to ourselves and the USDA that it hasn't moved from the wild onto farms."

Feral pigs have been seen, trapped, and shot in recent years in many parts of the state, but most frequently in Crawford County. The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has been working with the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services to address the problem.

Besides pseudorabies, feral swine may also carry brucellosis, bovine tuberculosis, influenza and foot-and-mouth disease. All of these diseases threaten cattle as well as swine, and some also pose a human health risk. Infection of domestic herds with any of these diseases also has far-reaching implications for trade as well.

In addition, feral hogs damage crops, pastures, and fences. They can also damage plants in the wild, disrupting ecosystems and causing soil erosion. They reproduce prolifically, have no natural enemies, and live a long time.

Landowners can shoot feral pigs anytime without a license. Others can shoot them with a small game license and permission to hunt them on private property. Wildlife and animal health officials have asked landowners and hunters to report sightings, kill the animals when they can, and immediately notify either DATCP, DNR or USDA when they do so the animals can be tested for disease.

Wisconsin's most recent pseudorabies outbreak was in April 2007 when two herds in Clark County tested positive. That outbreak was possibly linked to feral hogs. The state is considered pseudorabies-free by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, after fighting back from a peak infection of 60 herds in 1989 – most of them in southwestern Wisconsin.

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