BY MYLES FISH
Wild boars on the loose have been unwelcome in Alberta since 2008, but with some 400 of the giant swine still putting their snout where it is not welcome, a new approach is in the works.
The feral beasts were declared a pest by the province five years ago and a $50 bounty is available for anyone who can turn in a set of their ears. Since 2009, over 900 pairs of ears have been turned in, though there were only 80 last year.
That drop in killing has the province looking for something more. Phil Merrill, a pest specialist with Alberta Agriculture who works to keep Alberta rat-free, said the approach will be two-fold — one part will focus on getting rid of the ones in the wild, the other making sure no more escape
“We’ve got to stop the wild boars from getting out into the wild. We’ve only got 12 active producers and only five of them are very big. We’ve just got to figure out some way to work with them so they don’t have escapees,” explained Merrill.
This could mean fencing guidelines and fines for producers whose boars escape. As for controlling the ones already loose, he suggested getting counties to institute control programs with dedicated staff working to trap or hunt them.
Wild boars are not native to North America, but were picked up by some farmers 20 years ago along with other niche livestock. When some producers found the venture to not be as lucrative as expected, boars escaped or were let loose into the wild, where they have bred prolifically.
Merrill does not expect a province-wide ban on the hogs, as they can be produced responsibly. He said he expects the pigs can be wiped out in the province before larger numbers show up, as is the case in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Texas, where there are over a million.
“It’s going to be a bit of a slow process. We’re going to come out with a program, we’re going to get the counties on board, and two or three years later we’re going to have them down to just a few,” he said.
No boars have been spotted in Red Deer County since 2008, when 19 were killed in the municipality’s southwest corner. With reports of boars in neighbouring Mountain View County, the county put a resolution to the Agricultural Services Board of Alberta in January requesting the province fast track a strategy to eradicate wild boars and enforce minimum fencing standards.
In 2011, the county proposed a resolution to hire professional trappers.
The boar, which can weigh up to 275 kg and produce about two dozen offspring a year, have adapted well to Canadian winters and are now reported to be more active at night to avoid hunters.