Wild boar are more widespread in Saskatchewan than commonly believed and control is becoming urgent, according to research by University of Saskatchewan biologist Ryan Brook.
“If nothing is done then we risk having more feral boar than people in the province and at that point the costs of taking action are far greater,” Brook said. “Early action will have huge economic savings.”
Brook, together with colleague Floris van Beest from Aarhus University in Denmark, surveyed community leaders in all 296 Saskatchewan rural municipalities. They determined there is a high probability that feral boar are in 70 per cent of the RMs, and the clock is ticking on getting them under control.
“Feral boar are widespread but most likely at low densities. So as of right now, total impacts are probably generally low,” Brook said. “The big concern is what will happen in the near future if the boar population continues to expand and increase.”
Wild boar imported as an alternative livestock option in the 1990s, have easily adapted to Saskatchewan’s harsh climate. They have one of the highest reproductive rates of any large animal, with sows producing two litters of six or more piglets every year.
- More from the Manitoba Co-operator: U.S. turns to military gear in hunt for feral swine
Omnivorous and aggressive, their rooting behaviour leaves parks, farmers’ fields and sensitive wildlife habitat looking like a rototiller has gone through. They chase livestock from pasture, carry disease, and can pose a danger to humans. Areas in and near Moose Mountain Provincial Park in southeast Saskatchewan are a particular hot spot. There, local ranchers and farmers have banded together to hunt the animals in a formal eradication program.
“I think many people in Saskatchewan are not aware of how severe the impacts of feral boar can be,” Brook said. “In the U.S., the impacts are in the billions of dollars from disease, crop damage, livestock harassment, impacts on natural ecosystems and species at risk, and attacks on humans.”
Brook and van Beest call for “aggressive and co-ordinated action” to meet the threat. Brook explained that sport hunting has no real impact on controlling population growth and in many cases makes the problem worse by dispersing animals. Instead, an international effort is needed. Authorities need to consider options such as hunting from aircraft, at night, using trained dogs, ground trapping and on-farm risk management.
“We’ll probably need all of these in the tool box to be reasonably effective,” Brook said. “All regions need to address this in a co-ordinated fashion or animals will continue to be reintroduced from other areas.”