The continued growth of wild pig populations in Western Canada has Ontario regulators working to identify the extent of the problem in the province, and root out the invasive animals before populations establish.
Wild pigs are defined as pigs that are not contained and can be found outside fences, says Bree Walpole, a senior policy advisor with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Typically, wild pigs found in the province include domestic farmed animals, pot-bellied pigs and Eurasian wild boars. Interbreeding also produces hybrid animals.
At the recent Ontario Certified Crop Advisors virtual conference, Walpole noted that the Ministry is working to identify the extent of the wild pig problem, but hard numbers for the Ontario population have not been established. Overall, the number is relatively small compared to other provinces and jurisdictions. In the U.S., the annual bill to control wild pigs tops US$1.5 billion, she adds.
In Western Canada, the problem is very real, says Walpole. “The wild pig population is established, they are breeding in the natural environment and numbers are increasing.” In Ontario, there have been scattered wild pig sightings but no evidence to suggest that populations in the province are self-sustaining and breeding in the wild.
Wild pigs do pose a threat to both livestock and human health as they can carry and transmit viruses and parasites. There is a risk that a diseased wild pig could spread disease to domestic farms, especially when pigs have access to the outdoors, says Walpole. Disease can also be transmitted to other types of livestock, native wildlife, and in some instances, humans.
Crops are also at risk. Once established, wild pigs can cause extensive damage foraging in crops, rooting, trampling and wallowing in fields.
Walpole says Ontario has an opportunity to be proactive rather than reactive to prevent populations from establishing in the province. In this interview with RealAgriculture’s Bernard Tobin, Walpole notes that the province is actively tracking pig sightings and considering control measures.
Story continues after the interview.
These efforts include a pilot study to detect the elusive animals, based on sightings that have been reported by vigilant Ontarians from across the province. Launched in 2020, the monitoring also calls for researchers to investigate high-priority sightings with on-the-ground techniques such as baited trail cameras.
Control options may also include regulating wild pigs under the Invasive Species Act. Officially regulating wild pigs as an invasive species would give the province more tools to combat these animals, adds Walpole.
For more information on invasive wild pigs in Ontario, visit www.ontario.ca/wildpigs.