When wild boar were first brought to the prairies, experts suggested crossing them with domestic pigs for a bigger, more reproductive animal. Unfortunately, some of the traits that make them great farm animals, also make them a wildly successful invasive pest.
According to Dr. Ryan Brook, wild pig occurrences occupy just over one million square kilometres in Canada, with 99.4 per cent of occurrences on the prairies.
Brook is an Associate Professor at the University of Saskatchewan. He’s been researching wild pigs for over a decade, and calls them “the most successful invasive large mammal on the planet.”
They’re long-lived and they reproduce quickly, with six young per litter on average, he says, with multiple litters per year.
And, for such a large animal, they’re incredible elusive.
“The biggest challenge I think we have is wild pigs are out of sight, out of mind. They’re around, they’re widespread, but people are not seeing them,” says Brook. “For a long time it sort of felt like studying Bigfoot or something, because nobody believed they really existed.”
Brook and his team choose to refer to pigs at large as simply ‘wild pigs.’
“Not all animals running around outside in the wild are actually wild boar,” says Brook. “In fact, it would be very rare to see a pig outside of a fence in Canada that’s a true ‘wild boar.'”
That’s partly because many of the hairy pigs in the wild have domestic pig genes. And also because there are free-ranging feral domestic pigs and pot belly pigs.
But the reaction to any pig sighting should be the same — report it (details below).
“If it’s outside of a fence, and it looks like a pig and oinks like a pig, then call that in for sure.”
Wild pigs cause many different kinds of damages, including:
Dr. Ryan Brook joined us in the second segment of Episode 4 of The Bovine. Click the ‘list’ icon on the player above, or skip to 21:26 to hear that interview. (Or better yet, download it and listen to the whole thing, wherever you want!)
According to Brook, Alberta is at a cross-roads, but there is still the possibility of eradication in the province.
Unfortunately, control measures are complicated. Pigs tend to out-reproduce shooting, and become more nocturnal as they’re hunted, he explains.
“Normally on average, at most you’re seeing 23 percent hunter success. So if there’s a sounder…if hunters try to shoot them, they’ll almost never get them all.”
“While sport hunting has been a great tool for a lot of wildlife management over the last hundred years, it just simply does not work for pigs. And unfortunately, it makes the problem worse. Shooting at groups breaks them up, and it…spreads them across the landscape and makes them that much more elusive and hard to find.”
“As we say, ‘you can not barbecue your way out of a wild pig problem.'”
Brook says the “path forward to success” is through whole-sounder removal.
This is often done through baiting and trapping the whole group.
Another technique Brooks says is very successful is the “Judas pig technique.”
“So you capture a wild pig, put a collar on it and follow it. And nothing finds wild pigs better than a wild pig.”
Brooks says while it hasn’t taken off for any other provinces, there’s hope it will.
There have been recent announcements regarding wild pig control measures on the prairies.
In March, just ahead of our interview with Dr. Ryan Brook, Saskatchewan announced enhanced measures to control feral pigs, including:
And following our recording, Alberta announced: