Wild pigs are “ecological train wrecks” spreading across Canada: Researchers

It’s a pig of a problem.

Wild boars have spread across Canada farther than anyone previously thought.

New research into the country’s wild pig distribution pinpoints the rapidly expanding range of the invasive species. The wild boars are taking over at a clip of nine per cent — 88,000 square kilometres — a year, and now reside all the way from British Columbia in the west to Quebec in the east.

“Wild pigs are ecological train wrecks. They are prolific breeders making them an extremely successful invasive species,” Ruth Aschim, a PhD student at the University of Saskatchewan, who led the research, said in a statement. “Wild pigs can cause soil erosion, degrade water quality, destroy crops, and prey on small mammals, amphibians and birds.”

This is considered the first published survey outlining the issue, and appears in Nature Scientific Reports.

It was only in the late 1980s that wild boars were imported from Europe in a bid to diversify local livestock and create targets for penned hunting.

Instead, the hybrids adapted to the climate and are been incredibly fertile, each having around six piglets per year.

Those animals then went on to raid farms, gobble up crops and disturb livestock. The United States pegs its wild boar-related agricultural damage at $1-billion (US) per year.

“The growing wild pig population is not an ecological disaster waiting to happen—it is already happening,” explained Ryan Brook, lead researcher for the Canadian Wild Pig Project, a Canada-wide research program, at the University of Saskatchewan.

In just 27 years, the wild boars became Canada’s worst invasive species.

Researchers tracked the wild pigs using collars, trail cameras and reported sightings.

The actual number of wild pigs, however, is unknown.

Researchers are using a net gun to capture wild pigs to fit them with GPS collars. Ryan Brook/University of Saskatchewan

Brook is calling on a eradication strategy.

Which is only doable if there’s a comprehensive plan developed.

“In Saskatchewan they are already posing significant risks to agriculture and livestock production,” Brook said. “Our mapping of their expanding territory shows just how quickly they are spreading. This is a rapidly emerging crisis.”

Main photo Dan Sakal/University of Saskatchewan

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