The state is defending a Department of Natural Resources conservation officer who shot a family’s pet potbelly pig on the belief the animal was wild.
The officer shot Caesar near Ispheming on April 2 when the animal came out of woods on state land.
“By law, any pig running at large is considered a public nuisance,” said Peter Wright, a DNR law supervisor for one of two Upper Peninsula districts.
The shooting has the pig’s owner, Tony Gervasi, venting his frustration on social media and trying to raise funds for a lawyer.
The pig “trotted away” from their rural house along Steel Bridge Road, and the family soon after issued a Facebook post offering a $100 reward for information about what happened to Caesar. Gervasi had seen blood in the road and wondered if he was hit or attacked.
The conservation officer showed up at the family’s door the next day after learning about the missing pet pig and told them he shot it.
Gervasi believes the shooting was unjustified and, according to a gofundme page he created, wants to change state law and the attitudes of officers.
“We want to ensure that current officers are trained further so they are able to tell the difference between a threat and a pet. We want to fight to get rid of the ideas of free shooting of pigs that (lawmakers) were cruel enough to put into action,” he wrote.
Wright, however, said the officer had no way of knowing the pig was a pet because it had no collar or tags. The pig was an estimated 35 pounds, much larger than photos posted on social media of Caesar at an earlier time.
The pig was on state property before it entered a road, then was shot.
Wright said if the officer had any notion the pig was a pet, he would not have shot it.
An image of the state law on feral pigs
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And while Gervasi claims that wild pigs are rarely seen in the area where he lives, Wright said they’re not as uncommon as people think.
He said that on Feb. 9, a United States Department of Agriculture officer killed two feral pigs in the region.
Feral pigs are considered a nuisance because they can carry disease and also cause damage to crops and plants, Wright said.
Meanwhile, Gervasi is raising money on the gofundme page to try to get Caesar’s body back from the DNR. The animal was being tested for disease. Gervasi wants the body back to have a private necropsy done so he can prove there was nothing wrong with him.
Wright said he and other DNR officials are in discussions to come to a “resolution” on what to do with the body, but it’s not yet clear.
E-mail John Tunison: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/johntunison