The Loop: Attack of the superpigs

·3 min read
Megan Evans of the Alberta Invasive Species Council says wild boars are a growing problem in Alberta- but we're taking the right steps to stop the destructive species in its tracks.  (Submitted by Megan Evans/Ryan Brook - image credit)
Megan Evans of the Alberta Invasive Species Council says wild boars are a growing problem in Alberta- but we're taking the right steps to stop the destructive species in its tracks. (Submitted by Megan Evans/Ryan Brook - image credit)

Wild boars are a problem in Alberta — and the invasive species is gaining traction around Edmonton.

This week on The Loop, Megan Evans from the Alberta Invasive Species Council dives into the origins of wild boar and what makes them so dangerous. Then CBC's Wallis Snowdon explains how Edmonton is stepping up its response.

Evans, the council's executive director, says the issue of wild boars has been around for decades though awareness is starting to grow. In her conversation with The Loop host Clare Bonnyman, she describes how we brought this problem on ourselves.

CBC
CBC

This transcription has been edited for clarity.

Clare Bonnyman: Was there any way to see this coming? What's happening now?

Megan Evans: Well, you know, it's a great question because interestingly, wild boar were introduced to Texas in the 1930s for sport hunting. And since then, in about 90 years, the wild boar have spread to 35 of the United States. And their population estimates in the States from the Texas introduction are estimated to be about 6 million more.

So we totally knew. We should have known what we were getting into. I think folks were arguing that the Canadian Prairies are really cold: "This is a really harsh climate. These animals, if they do get out, they won't be able to survive."

Well, turned out they can and they're quite adaptable and they're doing very well. So, yeah, we really should've seen this coming.

CB: This isn't like pigs just hanging out in your backyard. Why are wild boars such a concern? What are they capable of?

ME: They're considered to be one of the most destructive invasive species on the planet. Not only do they have all of the characteristics of an invasive species, they breed really, really quickly. They can disperse over long distances. They have few predators.

But they also have these incredibly damaging behaviours. They get into crops and they can destroy fields. They'll turn over the vegetation in search of tubers and grubs for food and in some cases will even eat crops like corn. Ultimately, if they're in a crop field, they're trampling it.

But again, they're super elusive. So a lot of times producers won't even realize they've had wild boar on their property until they get in and start harvesting. And then they start seeing the damage inside the field.

They can get into stored feed. They can predate livestock like calves and also wildlife. There's a few photos on the internet of wild boar with a fawn in its mouth. So that's really a scary image to see. They can eat small mammals, they can destroy ground nesting, birds' nests, the eggs and the general habitat.

But the single most serious risk associated with these animals is the spread of disease transfer or the risk of the spread of disease transfer. They can host up to 89 different diseases that can be either spread to humans, livestock or wildlife.

And some of those are reportable diseases. So those are very serious, like African swine fever or foot and mouth disease. An outbreak of a reportable disease could cause a complete and immediate closure of Alberta's beef and pork exports.

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