First introduced to Canada in the 1980s as a diversification option, wild hog populations outside of farmed production have been steadily climbing.
Wild hogs that escaped from farms or were released from enclosures when businesses shut down have done very well in Saskatchewan — so well that it’s estimated descendants of those original hogs now cover close to 800,000 square kilometres of terrain across Canada.
Research out of the University of Saskatchewan has been focused on tracking and quantifying this invasive species, as well as trying to learn more about the wild hog life cycle and potential threats to habitat, farm land, and domestic hog producers.
Leading the research is Dr. Ryan Brook, associate professor with the U of S College of Agriculture and Bioresources. Brook says that there is a chance to get wild hog numbers under control, if serious action begins this year. Wild hogs are known to be aggressive, but also elusive and quite smart. Hunting them can actually make them disperse and expand their range faster, he says.
While much of the wild hog population lives in Saskatchewan and the Prairies, funding for Brook’s research has largely come from the U.S. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Brook explains, understands the very real risk of feral hogs moving south from Canada into the Northern States. Wild hogs not only damage wildlife habitat, but they are also huge corn crop eaters — groups of hogs can cause incredible damage to corn fields and the standing crop, Brook says.
Feral hog populations may also harbour and spread disease, Brook says, adding that very little is known about the current disease makeup circulating in these animals. At a time when African swine fever is decimating pork value chains in other parts of then world, Brook says a wild hog population of this size and range could pose a significant threat to our North American hog industries.
Hear more from Dr. Ryan Brook about his team’s research and the increasing issue of wild hog numbers on the Prairies: