Wild pigs pose ecological and agricultural problems across Canada and into the United States. Every year, this rapidly reproducing, non-native species expands its territory, most recently being discovered in Alberta’s Elk Island National Park.
Originally brought into the country to help diversification efforts in agriculture in the late 80s and early 90s, the invasive species, cross-bred with domestic pigs, to create “super pigs” has become an issue for both natural wetlands and crop land.
Ryan Brook, associate professor in the department of animal and poultry science, and wildlife biologist with the Canadian Wild Pig Research Project at the University of Saskatchewan, has been researching wild pig populations for over a decade.
“It looked kind of like a ticking time bomb that needed some probing and to figure out, so we started small. The first project we did was putting out trail cameras in 2010 and then because at that point, a lot of people said they did not exist,” says Brook.
It won’t take long until wild pigs invade other parks and more areas of Canada, Brook says.
Brook’s research has been largely funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, as the U.S. has been much more proactive about controlling wild pig populations than their Canadian counterparts. Unfortunately, Brook says that Canada seems to be in denial about wild pigs presence, despite sightings being reported in several provinces.
Wild pigs not only pose ecological problems, including contaminating waterways with E. coli and damaging crops, they could also carry and vector African swine fever if it arrives in Canada. They could do the same with various other serious diseases that can easily be transferred to domestic pig herds.
“More recently in the last couple of years, China has had huge problems, and a number of countries in Europe as well, and indeed to the point where they’ve actually built fences along entire borders of countries in Europe, trying to keep wild boar out,” says Brook.
As for a strategy going forward, Brook says that provincial, national, and international strategies need to be formulated and that having more players at the table, like Ducks Unlimited and the Nature Conservancy of Canada, could certainly help.
Listen to the full conversation with Brook below: