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In this paper the discussion presented will briefly discuss the role of feral swine in relation to livestock within the United States. This issue is considered important given the fact that these animals have considered a potential threat to livestock within the country based on research findings.
According to Witmer, Sanders and Taft, the swine were introduced into the United States during the period around the 1400’s as a source of meat (2). Following this initial introduction there have been numerous subsequent introductions.
The introduction of the animals has been found to be possible through a number of ways including translocation, a number that escape from shooting preserves, dispersal of already established populations, avoiding capture or in some cases abandonment (316).
The management of these animals is a very controversial issue due to the diverse views held by government and private individuals and groups. However, despite this position it would appear that there is a need to readdress the issue given that these animals have the potential of harboring disease causing organisms that may threaten livestock in these regions.
The main assertion that makes the basis of this report is in the fact that feral swine populations are reported as having many negative impacts. Due to this there has arisen some considerable interest in the swine which are considered as an invasive species in a variety of settings (Witmer, Sanders and Taft 317).
Reports indicate that the swine are responsible for considerable losses in native flora and fauna. In addition to this the swine are able to cause soil erosion, declines in water quality, reduced bio diversity, crop and reforestation damage.
In addition to environmental degradation it is reported that the swine can harbor a number of diseases and parasites that can infect humans and livestock.
This position has been discussed in several national symposia in recent years with documentation produced on possible problems and solutions. Estimates from these reports indicate that feral swine may be responsible for an estimated $800 million to agriculture and the environment (Witmer, Sanders and Taft 317).
Because of their ability to harbor a number of parasites it is suspected these diseases are transmissible to humans, livestock and wildlife. Due to this there has been concern over the role that feral swine may play in the outbreak of a foreign animal disease such as hog cholera or foot and mouth disease (Witmer, Sanders and Taft 320).
Because of the disease threat posed by the swine there has been disease surveillance conducted in a number of states. Following this surveillance some measures have been undertaken to control the spread of specific livestock disease. One major setback to these efforts is the prevalence of the swine in populations across the country.
At the same time the pork industry within the US is major consumer of produce that comes from swine across America. It is reported that annual farm sales are in the range of $34 billion (Witmer, Sanders and Taft 320).
This produce is mainly sourced from swine kept in free ranges or in fenced populations. Due to this major business it is difficult to reduce the production from free ranges (Witmer, Sanders and Taft 320).
According to Witmer and Lewis, each species of wildlife occurs as a part of an ecosystem, interacting in many ways with other parts of the eco system. This interaction may include abiotic components such as soil, air and water as well as other substrates (Witmer and Lewis 423).
Species that are normally referred to as native or indigenous naturally occur in a particular area and have been there for a very long time. However due to a variety of events there are occasions when outside species may be introduced to an eco system.
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These species in some cases are very successful and are then referred to as invasive species (Witmer and Lewis 423). Such species bear the ability to spread unchecked and increasing to high population levels. Due to this rapid spread such a species may become capable of compromising large portions of the biota
The process of introduction of a species can occur through a variety of mechanisms, both purposeful or by accident.
Accidental introductions include those in which animals escape from captivity, as stowaways on ships, trains or other vehicles. On the contrary purposeful introductions include those where the species are introduced to serve a specific purpose such as to provide substitute source of food (Witmer and Lewis 424).
It has been observed that it is very important to understand the potential ecological consequences of wildlife introductions. For this reason it is deemed better to prevent introduction of an unwanted species rather than deal with the management or attempts to eradicate it later (Witmer and Lewis 424).
Based on this therefore it is possible to conclude that to assist in managing the feral swine areas where the animals have minimal populations may consider complete eradication of the species.
Based on this report it emerges that estimates indicate almost 42 species have been introduced in Oregon and Washington (Witmer and Lewis 440). Though these introductions have taken place for a wide variety of reasons, some have made major contributions to outdoor recreation, state wildlife agency revenues, other have led to adverse effects on the environment in various locations.
This adverse effect arises mainly due to direct or indirect mechanisms such as resource competition, predation, and displacement. This suggests a need for improved measures to the management of introduced species across the nation.
In another report on the issue of feral swine and their impact on the environment it has been reported that these animals are known to have serious adverse effects on the environment (Campbell and Tyler 2319). The geographic distribution and abundance of feral swine is increasing throughout the United States, where estimates reports losses to the tune of $ 800 million annually.
Due to this significant threat they cause to the environment natural resource managers are beginning to give recognition to these exotic animals. As a result feral swine management programs are being implemented throughout their range.
It is unfortunate that these feral swine damage management programs are conducted in a piecemeal fashion and are poorly funded (Campbell and Long 2319). Due to this situation it has been suggested that additional guidance is required for feral swine damage identification and management.
In this report several types of environmental damage are mentioned in relation to the feral swine. It is reported that in areas where these swine prevail rooting is very common due to the swine burrowing nature (Campbell and Long 2319).
The practice is the major source of conflict with agricultural producers due to the damage to farming equipment it causes. In addition to this it is reported that the swine can cause extensive crop damage to both row crops and forested areas. This particularly common during the seedling stage of development where the swine root up seedlings to consume the roots.
The feral swine are also responsible for forested eco system damage due to their practice of reducing the recruitment and growth of saplings. The swine can also cause significant damage in deciduous forests. The report also highlights several management approaches to handling the feral swine such as fencing, trapping, shooting and toxicants (Campbell and Long 2323).
In another report on the potential importance of swine and influenza it has been observed that the swine share common receptors with birds and humans (Hall 362). Due to this nature swine have the potential to be affected by both avian and mammalian strains of influenza. This position has seen some experts consider swine as a form of mixing vessel and new strains of influenza may arise due to genetic re assortment.
In this report it is also indicated that feral swine pose a serious threat to natural ecosystems and agriculture where they become established. This is because of their feeding and rooting habits can destroy native plant communities, damage irrigation sheds and displace native species (Hall 363).
The main reservoir of avian influenza is waterfowl and both swine and fowl reside in the same habitat. This factor makes the swine play a considerable role in influenza transmission cycles given that there is significant possibility of shared pathogens.
Strengths and Weaknesses
In the United States populations of wild boars have escaped and lived in the wild for many years. Owing to this the population of these wild swine has risen and in some areas led to a need to consider appropriate management (Nugent 19). The swine are very adaptive and are capable of rapid reproduction.
In response to the dilemma the State of Oregon has led to a need for serious management consideration. The action plan currently in place has both strengths and weaknesses as will be explained further below. The main strength of the plan lies in the fact that areas for eradication have been identified though compliance is not 100% (Nugent 20).
However, the weakness of the plan lies in the fact that pig hunting is a popular activity in the region and as such the role of hunting revenues has limited what can be done in relation to the swine. Whereas hunters harvest 40% annually, it remains difficult to contain the population unless 70% is removed from each generation (Nugent 20).
Usefulness of presentation
This report is considered important due to the fact that it provides information on the current situation in relation to feral swine. The report provides some statistics and general information on the potential effects that feral swine can have on the environment. In addition to that it provides information on the current solutions in place that deal with this specific problem.
Campbell, Tyler A., and David B. Long. “Feral Swine Damage and Damage Management in Forested Ecosystems.” Forest Ecology and Management. 257 (2009). Web.
Hall, Jeffrey S. et al. “Influenza Exposure in United States Feral Swine Populations.” Journal of Wildlife Diseases. 44 (2008). Web.
Nugent, Martin. “Oregon Invasive Species Action Plan.” Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (2005). Web.
Witmer, Gary W., and Jeffrey C. Lewis. “Introduced Wildlife of Oregon and Washington.” USDA National Wildlife Research Center-Staff Publications. Paper 656 (2001).Web.
Witmer, Gary W., Robert B. Sanders, and Arnold C. Taft. “Feral Swine: Are They A Disease Threat To Livestock in the United States?” USDA National Wildlife Research Center – Staff Publications. Paper 292 (2003). Web.