Invasive pigs running wild across Canada

Over the last 27 years, the population of wild pigs roaming around Canada has exploded, according to a new report.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan, found that wild pigs are Canada’s most rampant invasive species and are causing an “ecological disaster.”

Wild pigs were first introduced to Canada in the 1980’s and 1990’s as part of government initiatives to diversify livestock species.

The country’s wild pig population has since increased exponentially, as more have escaped from domestic wild boar farms. The majority of them are clustered in the Prairie Provinces, but there are also a number in parts of B.C. Ontario and Quebec.

Wild pigs can be particularly damaging to ecosystems’ processes, vegetation and water bodies, prompting researchers to dub them “ecological train wrecks.” They can cause great disturbance to habitats and resources, which can have significant effects on native wildlife and biodiversity, the report said.

The study marked the first time researchers have mapped Canada’s wild pig population. It showed that 92 per cent of the species’ expansion happened in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Almost 60 per cent of the national spread of wild pigs occurred in Saskatchewan. Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia have no confirmed sightings of wild pigs.

“Our finding of wild pigs mainly concentrated in the Prairie Provinces with some of the coldest winters of all ten provinces and that the species is rare or absent in the warm coastal areas is inconsistent with studies that have found that wild pig distribution is positively associated with warmer climates and have suggested cold winter temperatures to be highly limiting,” the study said.

“This likely reflects, in part, that domestic wild boar farms that are known sources of free-ranging wild pigs were, and are, more concentrated on the Canadian Prairies. The success of wild pigs in western Canada does highlight the capacity for wild pigs to thrive and expand in areas with long and extremely cold winters including some occurrences north of 55° north latitude.”