It would be hard to create a more perfect pest than a wild hog. Largely a product of escaped domestic pigs, wild hogs now cover more than a million square kilometres of Canadian landscape. They have few natural predators, can survive harsh winters, breed several times a year, and manage to evade most human contact. Oh, and they can live off farmers’ crops quite comfortably.
For more on this pest, plus what Canada and the U.S. are doing (or not doing) about them, we go LIVE! to Dr. Ryan Brook, with the University of Saskatchewan.
Don’t miss the RealAg LIVE! Q&A every Monday to Friday at 1 pm M/3 E across social media platforms!
- Brook has spent the last 10 years looking at wild pigs
- Is it feral hog or wild pig?
- It was first thought that escaped pigs wouldn’t survive or breed in the wild
- And then they started a collaboration with the USDA: cash for collars! Trail cams! And holy smokes, there are wild pigs around
- Developed a national map of wild pigs, as these hogs add 80,000 sq km per year to their ranges
- Why do the dollars come from the USDA and not necessarily from Canadian sources?
- Out of sight, out of mind, with lower numbers it seems like it’s less of an issue here
- Texas has over 3 million animals, Saskatchewan is the same size but has far fewer. But could probably support 1 million hogs
- Why are we worried? African swine fever, PEDv, biosecurity. Still hasn’t been the main focus.
- Why are they so hard to deal with? We’ve studied patterns and behaviours. They are nocturnal. Collared pigs have huge home ranges. In Europe they have maybe a 3 to 4 sq km range. Ours are 100 times larger. They move around more in Canada than anywhere else on earth.
- They live in areas people don’t frequent
- Definitely cause crop damage (they really like corn) but they will consume a number of crops
- They do harass livestock, too. Video of Prince Albert bus driver, wild pig chasing a cow and calves. Not predation, but stress. Pushes them off feed. Some have had to move watering because of them.
- The do eat lambs and kids (goat, not human)
- They are prolific: 6 piglets per litter, multiple litters per year, they have continuous babies, and just keep going
- Virtually no predation. They really have no predators here. In their native range, wolves do kill them, bears may grab a piglet, but we don’t have these in high numbers near farmland
- How do we track? Sightings are logged, collars, too, hunter trail cams, a network of trail cams (not currently collaring, though)
- Can you eat them? Sure, but you probably want a female or piglet
- Hunting and game hunting won’t even make a dent. And can actually make dispersion worse
- Need an organized, eradication program. There are tools that would work, but the comparison is thinking about having the availability of a ‘firetruck’ within a quick drive of any house fire
- Catch entire sounder groups (big traps, lots in the U.S.).
- You need a full toolbox. Judas pig, use the pig to find other pigs. Once you find them — could use aerial assault. Nitrite-based poison. Trapping and culling. Nets and bolt guns. Sterilization is not likely useful as the hogs can still live for years causing crop damage and harassing livestock. Need a humane end, too.
- So why hasn’t Canada taken this super seriously? Patchwork ideas, but not a full, national policy
- Alberta has used drones to find hogs, but not to eradicate them. Trapping only gets the “young and dumb”
- Threat to domestic hog herd? Disease is the biggest threat to hogs. Domestic cattle, the risk is higher as far as harassment goes. But there are plenty of backyard pig farmers, meaning even those herds getting disease in them counts as a herd just like a 1,000 sow barn is a herd.