A massive explosion in the population of Canadian wild pigs is threatening to spill over the US northern border, the Associated Press reported.
The wild pigs roam the Canadian territories of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. Most of them are crossbreeds that combine the size and high fertility of domestic pigs with the survival skills of wild boars, creating a so-called “super pig” whose population is unstoppable and hard to eradicate.
While not native to North America, pigs have roamed throughout the continent for centuries. However, Canada’s current crisis stems from the 1980s when the government started encouraging farmers to raise wild boar, according to University of Saskatchewan professor Ryan Brook.
When the pork market collapsed in 2001, many Canadian pig farmers cut their losses and set their animals free.
Brook, Canada’s leading authority on the wild pigs described the “super pig” as “the most invasive animal on the planet.”
Given their intelligence, survival instincts, and fur, the freed pigs did very well in Canadian winters. They are omnivorous, eating everything from wildlife to crops, tearing up land as they dig up crops or root for bugs.
Additionally, they reproduce quickly, with a sow producing two litters of around six piglets every year.
According to Brook, if 65 percent or more of the population was killed, the population would continue to increase. Attempting to cull the population through hunting only makes the problem worse. Brook told the Associated Press that the success rate for hunting wild pigs is only around 2 to 3 percent. Worse still, hunting only makes the pigs more nocturnal and wary, making it more difficult to track them.
Wild pigs are already a problem for US farmers, causing about $2.5 billion in damage to crops each year, primarily in southern states like Texas.
According to the USDA, feral pigs have been reported in around 35 states, with an estimated population in those states of about 6 million.
In 2014, the USDA launched the National Feral Swine Management Program. Since then, it has provided funding to 33 states to eradicate low or emerging populations while limiting the damage in regions where wild pigs are already well established.
With the Canadian population exploding, northern states like Minnesota, Montana, and North Dakota are already making plans to eradicate the menace before the wild pigs take hold.