Clearwater County will not follow the lead of some Alberta counties and ban wild boar within its borders.
Mountain View County, which has banned wild boar, had requested Clearwater County follow suit after representatives from the two municipalities met recently in an Intermunicipal Collaboration Committee meeting.
Matt Martinson, Mountain View director of agriculture and community services, said wild boar have been in Alberta since the 1980s, when they were introduced in an effort to diversify livestock operations.
Over the years, a number of boar escaped or were released and began breeding around the province. As the population grew, farmers reported they were damaging farmland and became a nuisance.
In the 1990s there were as many as half a dozen wild boar operations in Clearwater County, but most went out of business. Only one is operating now.
Wild boar were eventually regulated under the Alberta Wild Pests Act, which gives municipalities the right to remove or destroy wild boar at large or require a landowner to do it.
The legislation also allows the county to require a minimum standard of fencing or wild boar operations.
Martinson said Mountain View County’s Agriculture Service Board recently discussed the other county’s request.
“Though I think the Ag Service Board absolutely recognizes the risk that wild boar do face to the environment, property and public safety, it was ultimately recommended to council by the Ag Service Board to decline the opportunity at this time to create a bylaw,” he said.
Among the reasons for not recommending a bylaw was that other species can cause damage or threaten public safety but are not banned.
“Bison are a good example of that. Feral horses already are on the Pest Act and they create issues in the West Country, substantially more than wild boar do at this time.”
Some on the board also pointed to the tradition of allowing landowners to produce and harvest food on their own property.
“It could be a bit of a slippery slope by starting to signal that we’re going to start regulating that freedom and that tradition we have here to produce livestock and to harvest that food on your property if you wish.”
There have been no issues with wild boar in the county lately, nor in neighbouring Red Deer and Mountain View Counties where bans are in place.
Even if there were problems with wild boar or feral hogs the county has the resources to deal with the problem and a bylaw banning them is not necessary, he added.
“Ultimately, the board feels the Pest Act is the most effective tool for regulating wild boar.”
Coun. Bryan Cermak, who voted in favour of a bylaw, asked what under the regulations stops a farmer from bringing in dozens of wild boar.
Martinson said there is nothing to stop a new operator setting up and they do not have to notify the county but they would be required to meet all the fencing standards under the Pest Act. The one wild boar operation has worked closely with the county to find out what regulations must be met.
Cermak said while a ban may not be necessary he wants to see some sort of requirement that the county be notified if a new wild boar wants to set up.
Reeve Daryl Lougheed also questioned the value of creating a bylaw.
“I do believe we have the right tool in place and have had a track record of being able to manage this without going to the extent of creating a prohibitive bylaw.”
Coun. Sydney Graham proposed a successful motion that the Agriculture Service Board consider recommending a bylaw that would require new wild boar operators to alert the county. It would come back to council at a later date.
Wild boar have been spotted in 28 Alberta counties. A year ago, the province reintroduced hunting incentives — one for landowners and trappers, another for hunters — that offer a $75 bounty for each set of pig ears. A similar program was in place from 2008 to 2017 and saw 1,135 proof-of-kills.
County of Stettler continues to take part in the wild boar bounty program, which remains in effect until March 31, 2024.
“Council has supported this program since 2008, however nobody has ever submitted wild boar ears in the County of Stettler, and we have received no complaints or reports of Wild Boar at large within our borders,” said county spokesperson Niki Thorsteinsson.