By Rob Hannam, CEO
Wild pigs are a hot topic in the agricultural sector, and for good reason. This invasive species poses serious risks to both agriculture and natural ecosystems. They can be very destructive of agricultural crops and wild pigs are of particular concern for the swine sector because if the population increases, so does the risk of disease transfer to domestic swine. Of perhaps the greatest concern is that they are a potential reservoir for federally reportable diseases like African Swine Fever (ASF). While ASF is not in North America, its introduction to Canada or the United States would devastate the pork industry in either country.
By all reports, populations of wild pigs are growing. In Canada, the highest numbers are in the West, particularly in the Prairie provinces. Approximately 80% of the rural municipalities in Saskatchewan have an overpopulation of wild boars.1 In Alberta, a third of rural municipalities report wild pigs and in Manitoba the increasing number of sightings indicate that the population is growing. In the U.S., at least 35 states have reported wild pigs and the population is estimated to be over 6 million and growing.2
Dr. Ryan Brook from the University of Saskatchewan has been studying these animals for 12 years.3 He describes them as very adaptable, intelligent and destructive. They have no natural predators to keep their populations in check and are well able to withstand the extremely cold temperatures of the Canadian Prairies. Brooks says wild pigs, “are the most successful invasive large mammal on the planet.”3
“Knowing where and how many wild pigs there are is the first step. We need to know what we are dealing with before monitoring and control actions can be really effective.”
Given the serious disease threat that wild pigs pose to the commercial swine industry, producers and others are being asked to report sightings immediately. Increasing surveillance and eradication efforts are part of the solution and, “knowing where and how many wild pigs there are is the first step. We need to know what we are dealing with before monitoring and control actions can be really effective,” explains Rob Hannam, CEO of Farm Health Guardian.
There may also be valuable lessons from countries where ASF is already present in the wild pig population. Finding ASF-positive wild pig carcasses is critical for surveillance and control, and especially for proper disposal of the carcasses to prevent further spread of the disease.
A four-year study of ten European countries evaluated the likelihood of finding ASF positive wild boar carcass based on type of landscape.4 It found that the probability of finding ASF positive carcasses was highest in areas of transition between woodlands and scrub, mixed forests, deciduous forest and green urban areas. For countries that are ASF-free, the authors recommend that search areas should focus on those at a higher risk for ASF introduction, rather than extensive areas of land.
Reporting sightings will continue to provide valuable information for targeting eradication efforts. That’s why Farm Health Guardian recently collaborated with the Manitoba Invasive Swine Eradication Project and Manitoba Pork to provide another easy way to report wild pig sightings and strengthen our collective efforts. Learn more here.