Letter: The Alberta Invasive Species Council Wants You to ‘Squeal on Pigs!’

Feral pigs, also known as wild boar at large, are invading Alberta and we are sounder-ing the alarm for your help to stop them!

Populations of wild boar at large have been exploding on the Canadian prairies since their introduction in the 1990s. They are one of the most damaging invasive species in North America and pose a serious risk to our environment and economy.

Wild boar at large were introduced to Alberta in the 1980s and ‘90s as livestock to diversify agriculture. Since then, many have escaped their enclosures and thrived as a feral species, causing damage to crops, pastures, property, and the environment. Specifically, wild boar at large can devastate crops and predate livestock such as goats and newborn cattle. While there are few Canadian estimates, agricultural damage in the United States caused by wild boar at large is estimated to be $1.5 billion each year. Even more concerning is the potential for disease transfer from wild boar at large to Alberta’s livestock industry. A recent risk assessment undertaken by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry indicated that potential disease transfer from wild boar at large to livestock is a significant threat. And while there are some remaining wild boar farms in Alberta, these are required to meet stringent containment standards in order to operate.

Wild boar at large pose a substantial risk to the domestic livestock industry because of the potential for disease transmission to hogs and cattle. Wild boar at large are known to host 89 different diseases that can be transmitted to livestock, humans, and wildlife, some of which come with big consequences. An example is foot and mouth disease; an outbreak would trigger a complete and immediate shut down of all Alberta pork and beef exports, and cost $65 billion nationwide. For decades researchers have warned of this risk, which continues to increase with the growing wild boar at large population in Alberta.

Recognizing these threats, initial control efforts in the form of a bounty program were implemented, and hunters could turn in wild boar at large ears in exchange for $50. These hunting efforts were later deemed ineffective and may have even exacerbated the issue. Wild boar are incredibly smart and when only a few individuals are hunted from a larger group (called a sounder), the remaining boar quickly learn to evade future hunting efforts by dispersing, changing movement patterns, and becoming nocturnal. They pass these tricks on to subsequent generations. The only way to effectively eliminate wild boar at large in an area is by eradicating the entire sounder simultaneously.

In response, Alberta Pork and Alberta Agriculture and Forestry have established a Wild Boar At Large Eradication Project, which involves coordinated and strategic removal of entire sounders. The Alberta Invasive Species Council, a non-profit organization established in 2006 that works to protect Alberta from the impacts of invasive species, has teamed up with Alberta Pork, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Alberta Beef Producers, other non-governmental organizations and numerous counties throughout Alberta to start squealing and spread the word! We are asking for your help to report signs and sightings of this invasive species.

Signs of wild boar at large:

  • Trailing under fence lines – wild boar at large travel in large groups and will leave tracks in snow and mud and often clumps of hair in barbed wire.
  • Tracks – wild boar at large tracks are similar in appearance to deer tracks but are more rounded at the tip and in their overall appearance. The dewclaws on wild boar tracks are wider than those in deer tracks.
  • Wallowing and rooting damage – wild boar at large will ‘wallow’ in wet areas, turning over vegetation and exposing large tracks of soil. They also ‘root’ in the ground to expose grubs and tubers for food.
  • Crop damage – can be severe and is often difficult to observe until the crop is being harvested. If you live in an area with known wild boar at large populations, it may be wise to hire a drone to fly over the crop to survey for damage throughout the growing season.

If you have observed wild boar at large or possible signs of their presence, contact us through any of the following means:

  • By submitting a report to the EDDMapS app
  • By calling 310-FARM
  • By emailing Wildboar@gov.ab.ca
  • By contacting your local municipal office

All reports are submitted to the Provincial Eradication Team for follow-up. Help us protect Alberta from the impacts of wild boar at large as well as other invasive species – don’t let these species wallow around, learn the signs and report!

For more information visit the Alberta Invasive Species Council website at www.abinvasives.ca.

Alberta Invasive Species Council

Print Friendly, PDF & Email