BRAUN: Ontario on guard against wild pigs – Toronto Sun


a group of wild pigs were spotted in Pickering in the late fall. They were captured and euthanized. Photo by TWITTER/CONSERVATION HALTON /TORONTO SUN

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Last year, city slickers were surprised to discover that Ontario has a problem with wild 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 were hogging the news.

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

The animals cause about $2.5 billion in damage in the U.S. every year; as Diane Peters writes in The Atlantic , they smash down crops, attack calves, lambs and pregnant livestock, and, “destroy native plants, animals, and precious habitats.”

And they carry some 30 diseases and 40 parasites.

The U. S. experience has shown Ontario the need to get out in front of the wild pig problem. Fortunately, the animals are not entrenched here. Yet.

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Morgan Kerekes, spokesperson for the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry (NDMNRF) says the porcine predators are not yet breeding and self-sustaining.

Most wild pigs reported here appear to be, “recently escaped livestock, including domesticated pigs, pot bellied pigs, and farmed Eurasian wild boar,” said Kerekes.

To keep wild pig population down, as of January 1, 2022 ,  live pigs are not permitted in Ontario’s provincial parks or conservation reserves. It is illegal to release any pig into the environment. If your pigs escape, you have to notify the ministry.

Hunting pigs is also illegal. Pigs are extremely smart, and hunted pigs learn fast to avoid humans — they are already masters of hiding in unpopulated areas. Being shot at makes them even harder to find and control.

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And pigs are highly adaptable. Kerekes said the animals are thriving on the Prairies and do just fine in cold northern climates. “Ontario’s existing climate is suitable for pigs to establish in the wild.”

Ryan Brook, a wildlife researcher at the University of Saskatchewan, told National Geographic that wild pigs on the Prairies are hybrids of wild boar and domestic pigs and hence have “super pig” properties with regard to size, reproduction and survival. He uses the term “ecological train wreck” to describe the damage they do.

Pigs were introduced into the Americas around 1500 ; in the 1900s, wild boar were introduced to the U.S. for sport hunting. Feral pigs have had explosive growth in the U.S. and Canada over the last 40 years, steadily moving north and west. (And south: Montana is trying to keep Canadian feral pigs from moving across their border .)

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In the U.S., the problem is so extensive that states such as Texas spend millions annually just to control the wild pig population and a feral swine damage management program coordinates eradication and research efforts nationally.

So Ontario is paying close attention. Kerekes said the NDMNRF is working hard on pig eradication programs.

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

Feral pigs spotted here are trapped and removed; wild pigs often have to be humanely euthanized, said Kerekes, “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.”

The animals’ tissues are kept for research, keeping scientists abreast of their condition and disease status.

“Outcomes will inform future management,” said Kerekes.

Constant vigilance and monitoring are crucial to keeping the pests at bay. As they say in Montana, squeal on pigs!

If you see see a pig, report it to [email protected] or 1-833-933-2355

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    Source: https://torontosun.com/news/provincial/braun-ontario-on-guard-against-wild-pigs

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