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BRAUN: Ontario on guard against wild pigs

BRAUN: Ontario on guard against wild pigs

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Last year, city dwellers were surprised to discover that Ontario had a problem with feral pigs.

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A group (or “sounder”) of 14 wild pigs was spotted in Pickering in November, and for a while the critters grabbed the news.

As invasive species, feral pigs are a nightmare, capable of damaging land and crops and spreading disease. The Pickering pigs were eventually captured and humanely euthanized.

Animals cause approximately $2.5 billion in damage in the United States each year; as Diane Peters writes in Atlantic , they destroy crops, attack calves, lambs, and pregnant cattle, and “destroy native plants, animals, and valuable habitat.”

And they carry around 30 diseases and 40 parasites.

The American experience has shown Ontario the need to address the feral pig problem. Fortunately, the animals are not entrenched here. Again.

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Morgan Kerekes, spokesperson for the Department of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry (NDMNRF) says the predatory pigs do not yet reproduce and are not self-sufficient.

Most of the feral pigs reported here appear to be “recently escaped livestock, including domestic pigs, pot-bellied pigs and farmed Eurasian boars,” Kerekes said.

In order to reduce the feral pig population, effective January 1, 2022, live pigs are no longer permitted in provincial parks or conservation reserves in Ontario. It is illegal to release any pig into the environment. If your pigs escape, you must notify the ministry.

Pig hunting is also illegal. Pigs are extremely intelligent and hunted pigs quickly learn to avoid humans – they are already adept at hiding in uninhabited areas. Getting shot makes them even harder to find and control.

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And pigs are very adaptable. Kerekes said the animals thrive on the prairies and do very well in cold northern climates. “The current climate in Ontario is conducive to the establishment of pigs in the wild.

Ryan Brook, a wildlife researcher at the University of Saskatchewan, said National geographic that wild prairie pigs are hybrids of wild boar and domestic pigs and therefore have “super pig” properties with respect to size, reproduction and survival. He uses the term “ecological train wreck” to describe the damage they cause.

Pigs were introduced to the Americas around 1500; in the 1900s, wild boar were introduced to the United States for sport hunting. Feral hogs have experienced explosive growth in the United States and Canada over the past 40 years, steadily moving north and west. (And to the south: Montana is trying to stop Canadian feral hogs from crossing their border.)

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In the United States, the problem is so widespread that states like Texas spend millions each year just to control the feral pig population, and a Feral Pig Damage Management Program coordinates eradication and research efforts. at national scale.

Ontario is therefore very careful. Kerekes said the NDMNRF is working hard on pig eradication programs.

The 2021 Strategy to Address the Threat of Invasive Feral Pigs has four main objectives: to prevent the introduction of pigs into the natural environment, to address the risk posed by Eurasian wild boar (and phase them out), to use a strategy of disposal and collaborate with other departments and jurisdictions.

Feral pigs spotted here are trapped and kidnapped; Feral pigs often need to be humanely euthanized, Kerekes said, “because they can carry a number of diseases and pathogens, making them a biosecurity risk to livestock and pets.

“They can also be aggressive and dangerous to humans and other animals.”

Tissues from animals are preserved for research, keeping scientists informed of their condition and disease state.

“The results will inform future management,” Kerekes said.

Constant vigilance and monitoring are essential to keep pests at bay. As we say in Montana, squeal on pigs!

If you see a pig, report it to wildpigs@ontario.ca or 1-833-933-2355

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