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Wisconsin has new rules for feral pigs, wolf-dog hybrids, mute swans

From the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

-- New rules are going into effect this summer in Wisconsin to prevent new introductions of three invasive species. Under rules effective July 1, people must have a license to possess wolf-dog hybrids, feral or wild swine and mute swans in captivity.

Also as of July 1, it is illegal to release any of these species into the wild,  and such releases can result in penalties of up to $1,142, as well as restitution costs for any damage caused by these animals.

"All three species have proven their ability to exist in the wild in Wisconsin," says Scott Loomans, wildlife regulations specialist for the Department of Natural Resources. "Wild and feral swine for instance, are opportunistic omnivores that eat an amazing amount and variety of plants and wild animals."

Feral and wild swine disturb habitat for, and compete with, a wide range of native animals, wild plants and agricultural crops. They disturb native ground cover creating avenues for infestation by invasive plants. Through digging and rooting activities, large family groups have caused locally significant damage to crops. They even pose a health threat to domestic animals.

Of primary concern are diseases such as pseudorabies, brucellosis and tuberculosis. While these diseases can be eliminated from domestic livestock herds, wild or feral swine that persist on the landscape could be disease reservoirs that continually reintroduce diseases to domestic herds.

In most cases, the possession of feral or wild swine is now prohibited. A limited exemption is available for some people who possessed animals on July 1, 2010 and who apply for a license with the Department of Natural Resources by September 28, 2010. (For more information, check online at http://dnr.wi.gov/org/land/wildlife/captive/CWAFL_App.pdf) The rules do not apply to owners of domestic hogs and no action is required by traditional pork producers.

Feral or wild swine include wild strains of swine commonly known by the name European, Eurasian, Russian, feral or domestic strains. Feral domestic strains also include animals which are confined but which exhibit characteristics of being in an untamed state, and hybrids of wild or feral with domestic swine. Included in this definition are any swine that is captured in the wild or from an unconfined environment after it has existed in the wild or unconfined environment outside of an enclosure for more than seven days, regardless of its physical characteristics.

People who possess wolf-dog hybrids or mute swans now need to apply for a captive wild animal farm license. In most cases, captive wild animal farm licenses cost $50 initially and $25 for annual renewals. For owners who do more than $10,000 of business a year the license costs $200 initially and $100 for renewals.

People who own animals considered to be wolf-dog hybrids will only be able to possess animals that have been spayed or neutered. Pen standards are also established by the rules, but owners can be licensed before construction of pens. Owners have until 2014 to construct pens.

If people own dogs that have been reported as being wolf-dog hybrids, but the owners are not sure, wildlife officials recommend that the owner obtains a variety of photos from different angles, and present to the local wildlife biologist, or the DNR wolf specialist to obtain an opinion whether the animal is likely a wolf dog hybrid.

A condition of licensing for mute swans is that they be enclosed in pens that are kept clean and sufficient to contain the animals. There are exceptions from pen standards for animals kept on a persons' own land if they have been pinioned and neutered. Mute swans are native to Europe and Asia, but not North America. They are an introduced species in North America.

More information and all of the new regulations is available on the captive wildlife page of the DNR website at http://dnr.wi.gov/org/land/wildlife/captive/captive.htm. Licensing standards are designed to assure humane care and to reduce the likelihood of animals escaping where they may pose a threat to human safety, the health of other wild or domestic animals, or of becoming established on the landscape as an invasive species.

For more information, call Loomans at (608)267-2452.

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