PhD student Ruth Aschim has been studying the growth rate of the wild pig population. She explained although they are not a native species, they are thriving in Canada with no natural predators.
“They’re generalists which means they can live anywhere,” she said. “They’re omnivores which means they can eat anything and their reproduction rates are very high.”
From 1990 to 2000, a small pocketed population of wild pigs was recorded in each of the Prairie provinces. Over the next ten years, hybrid pigs began rapidly multiplying and spreading.
The most growth has been between 2011-17, with the pig’s territory increasing by an average of 88,000 square kilometres per year.
Aschim said it makes the hybrid pig species one of the fastest growing invasive mammals in Canada.
“They’re very destructive to our environments,” she said. “They have a rooting behaviour that will root up the vegetation and soil like a rototiller went through an area.”
Crop damage, vehicle collisions and safety are all concerns regarding the wild pig’s population.
Aschim explained disease transmission could be devastating to Canadian agriculture. African swine fever has not been reported in Canada but affecting Europe and Asia.
If the wild pig population gained infection, it could be a danger to international trade.
“Once a disease does get into a wildlife population it’s much harder to eradicate,” she said. “You don’t know which animals are infected and how far that disease spreads.”
Hunting isn’t an option for wild pig management as Aschim said there would need to be an 80 per cent cull annually to see a decrease in the population.
“They’re very intelligent,” she said. If you shoot at them and don’t kill them, now you’ve educated them and (they) will move to a new area and change their activity patterns.”
Each province currently provides its own management, but Aschim wants to see more action taken to control the population similar to an aggressive national strategy used in the United States.
In Saskatchewan, if a herd of wild pigs is identified people can report the sighting to the province’s crop insurance program or a conservation officer to deal with the problem.
Wild pigs originally derived from wild boars brought from Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Aschim explained they were brought to Canada to diversify livestock, but some escaped from domestic farms or were intentionally released into the wild to create the hybrid wild pig we see today.