Wildlife managers win appeal on Michigan’s exotic pig ban
MARQUETTE, Mich. (AP) – Michigan’s ban on Russian boars and similar pig breeds is constitutional, the state appeals court said Wednesday, overturning an order that had prevented officials from taking action against animal owners in the Upper Peninsula.
In a 3-0 decision, the court said there’s nothing illegal about the state targeting some breeds and not others. It struck down an injunction ordered last year by a Marquette County judge.
The Department of Natural Resources designated exotic swine as an invasive species off-limits in Michigan, saying they’re escaping from hunting ranches and small farms and ravaging wetlands, streams and crops with their rooting and wallowing. They’ve even been called a four-legged version of the dreaded invasive Asian carp.
“The DNR’s approach to its task rests on rational grounds,” judges Elizabeth Gleicher, Kirsten Frank Kelly and Deborah Servitto said. “The evidence presented by the DNR substantiates that the pigs identified in the (order) threaten the environment even though many of them are currently caged.”
The dispute now goes back to local courts in the Upper Peninsula. Although the appeals court found the DNR’s policy to be constitutional, boar owners still could go to trial and argue that their animals technically aren’t covered, attorney Glenn Smith said.
“They’re going to have to prove our animals are wild. They’re not,” he said.
DNR spokesman Ed Golder said the department kept enforcement on hold during the appeal.
“We’ll review this decision … and determine next steps,” he said.
The case involved Greg Johnson, who owns the Bear Mountain hunting preserve in Marquette County; Roger Turunen, who raises Russian boars in Baraga County for sale to game ranches; and Matthew Tingstad of Gogebic County, who bought two boars from Turunen to keep as family pets.
The appeals court said they appeared to be responsible owners.
“The fact remains that all Russian boars now inhabiting the wilds of our state were once penned Russian boar or are descended from such animals,” the court said. “The DNR’s decision to ban Russian wild boar … advances the DNR’s legitimate objective of preventing any augmentation of the present wild pig population.”