Written by Cory Knutt & Glenda-Lee Vossler
Invasive wild pigs continue to be a concern across the Prairies.
Dr. Ryan Brook, with the University of Saskatchewan, spoke on the issue last week at Manitoba Pork's AGM.
"Anytime you have wild pigs, their potential to explode and become out of control is very, very high. They have huge impacts on the ag sector and the environmental sector, even public health. We need to be very concerned. The numbers are relatively limited across most of Manitoba. There is a high concentration in the Spruce Woods area that's particularly important, and they can function as what we call a stronghold. We're seeing this, pigs are dispersing out there on a regular basis and spreading, and so there is a real concern for sure."
Brook says Saskatchewan has more than of half of all the wild pigs found across Canada.
"Especially in east/central Saskatchewan, there's one major hotspot that we know has more wild pigs than the rest of Canada combined," he noted. "The problem for Manitoba is that hotspot is literally right on the Manitoba border. Manitoba is doing things and moving this forward and talking about it...but Manitoba also has to recognize that pigs can move in from Saskatchewan, and so we need to all be rowing in the same direction and coordinating our efforts to make sure that Manitoba is successful inside the province but also being good neighbours as well."
The reason that wild pigs are so hard to control, according to Brook, is that they have a high reproductive rate, they eat almost anything, and are highly elusive. He adds diseases such as African swine fever is one reason the issue is gaining more traction.
In terms of control measures, Brook believes the best approach is to have lots of tools in the toolbox and to use them all. He says hunting is not one of the solutions as the success rate is amazingly low, and it tends to spread the pigs around.
"You can either have sport hunting of pigs or you can have eradication, pick one. Right now, Manitoba is effectively open season. I think we're going to need to have a serious conversation about changing that if we want to have success."
Earlier this month, Alberta developed a Wild Boar Control Program which includes an expanded trapping and control program, compensation for farmers and two separate bounty programs – one for landowners and trappers, and another for hunters.
Last month, the Saskatchewan Government enhanced its ability to deal with invasive wild pigs.
The Ministry of Agriculture is developing regulations for licensing existing commercial wild boar farms and imposing a moratorium on any new farms, while regulations for wild boar/feral pigs will also be developed under The Pest Control Act.
More information on the topic can be found at https://www.facebook.com/WildPigResearch/