Ontario Continues Fight Against Invasive Wild Pigs

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Photo by Ed van duijn on Unsplash

A message from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry:

The push continues to prevent the establishment of one of the most serious threats that
Ontario’s natural environment could face — wild pigs.

Destructive, clever, and supremely adaptable, invasive wild pigs compete with native
wildlife for food and shelter. They prey on native plants, subjecting natural areas to
enormous damage from digging, rooting, trampling, and wallowing. Wild pigs can also spread diseases to native wildlife and livestock.

“Once a wild pig population establishes itself and starts reproducing, it can be virtually
impossible to eradicate if left unchecked,” said Dr. Erin Koen, a wildlife researcher with
the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. “That’s why the Ontario
government has been taking action to fight this threat on several fronts.”

Populations of wild pigs have been established in many regions of North America,
including the prairie provinces. In the U.S., wild pigs cause an estimated $1.5 billion in
damage and control costs each year.

“Fortunately, Ontario still has time to prevent the establishment of wild pig populations in the province,” Koen said.

In February, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry published a proposal on the
Environmental Registry of Ontario, seeking feedback to determine what actions should
be taken to prevent the introduction and spread of wild pigs. These actions may include regulating wild pigs under the Invasive Species Act. Officially regulating wild pigs as an invasive species would give the province more tools to combat these animals.

The province has been gathering data and evaluating options for addressing invasive
wild pigs. And the fight to contain wild pigs is being waged on the front lines as well. This includes a pilot study to detect these elusive animals, based on sightings that have been reported by vigilant Ontarians from across the province.

The pilot study, which launched earlier this year, involves researchers investigating
high-priority sightings with on-the-ground research techniques such as baited trail
cameras and conversations with members of the local community.

While the follow-ups on wild pig sighting reports were paused during the COVID-19
outbreak, the ministry will continue these actions once it is safe to do so. Ontarians can continue to help by reporting any pig they see outside of a fence.

“I can’t tell you how impressed we’ve been with the response we’ve had so far. Our
research simply wouldn’t be possible without Ontario residents reporting their sightings,”
said Koen.

The province often receives comments on how hunting could potentially solve the
problem. But research from other regions shows that hunting is not an effective way to
eradicate wild pig populations.

“It may seem counter-intuitive, but hunting can actually speed up the spread of invasive
populations,” said Koen. “Wild pigs that are exposed to hunting pressure flee into new
areas and learn to avoid humans.”

As a more effective solution, when ownership cannot be determined and the animal
presents a threat to native species, ecosystems or people, the ministry is prepared to
trap and remove individuals or entire groups of wild pigs — a technique that’s been
proven to work well in other jurisdictions.

All of this research and effort is being channeled towards one specific goal: sparing
Ontario from the destructive and costly impacts of invasive wild pigs.

Early results of the pilot study indicate that some of Ontario’s wild pigs are pot-bellied
pigs that have escaped from their owners.

“We’re encouraging all owners of pigs, including Eurasian wild boar farmers and
domestic pig owners, to ensure they keep their pigs contained. Preventing pig escapes
is one of the most important things that Ontarians can do to address this growing
concern,” said Koen.

For more information on invasive wild pigs in Ontario, visit the Government of Ontario website. Ontarians are encouraged to report wild pig sightings by email at wildpigs@ontario.ca or through iNaturalist.ca.

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