Monday, February 6

Wild Canadian pigs threaten ‘total destruction’ if left unchecked, say experts | Canada

The Canadian city of Edmonton may soon be hogtied with a problem that it won’t be able to barbecue its way out of.

Wild pigs have been spreading across central Alberta’s prairies and if left unchecked, they could soon find themselves in the river valley of Edmonton. According to Ryan Brook, a University of Saskatchewan professor studying the pigs, the creatures are an “ecological trainwreck” and would cause “absolute destruction” if they make their way to the river valley, which is abundant in water and forest cover.

“They tear up the forest floor, native grasslands get destroyed, wetlands, water systems. They feed on anything where they can, and will kill any pets, for sure,” Brook told the EdmontonJournal.

“Wild pigs are the worst invasive wild mammal on the planet – I don’t think there’s any debate about that.”

As omnivores, the pigs will eat virtually anything, including squirrels, birds, eggs, roadkill, live deer and pets. Weighing up to 100kg, the pigs sustain blistering winters by building “pigloos”, or burrows that they heap with cattail plants.

“They wallow in wetlands and tear them up to make their nests … They contaminate water with mud and pathogens, they destroy crops, they are a public safety hazard and they can transmit disease to humans, pets, livestock and wildlife,” Brook said.

The pigs can severely compromise the livelihood of native wildlife. In addition to competing with native species such as deer and wild turkey, the pigs often beat coyotes to the scene of a kill.

They can also carry 89 Diseases including the African swine fever. Another illness, foot and mouth disease, has been estimated by the Alberta Invasive Species Council to cost upwards of $51b in national exports if it spreads to meat products and causes an outbreak.

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In addition, wild pigs have been linked to the decline of 22 plant species and four amphibian species.

Last May, the Alberta Invasive Species Council launched the Squeal on Pigs campaign in an attempt to control the pigs’ spread. The campaign you urge residents to report wild pig sightings to authorities so they “can make plans to eliminate entire sounders [a group of wild pigs] at eleven”.

The campaign comes after researchers found that hunting individual pigs was only making the problem worse as it gave the rest of the pigs a chance to change their habits.

Despite the provincial government’s campaign, Edmonton officials do not have a plan to deal with the pigs, they should begin invading the city, according to a city spokesperson, Chrystal Coleman.

“You can ignore wild pigs all you want until you can’t ignore them. Then they’re at your doorstep and literally showing up in your house and coming into cities,” he said. “You cannot dabble in wild pig eradication. You either go in full hog and go hard and remove them, but you need a strategy,” warned Brook.

According to Mike Bodenchuk, a biologist at the US Department of Agriculture, the pigs are able to adapt to urban environments. They have been found sleeping under car shades, knocking over headstones in city cemeteries and eating pet food.

The pigs also scavenge through trash which exposes garbage and in turn attracts birds, thus creating issues for nearby airports and seaports.

“It’s hard to imagine you can damage trash, but you can … if we don’t cover it deep enough, the pigs will dig it and eat that trash and it opens up to birds coming in,” Bodenchuk told the Edmonton Journal.

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“You cannot barbecue your way out of this problem,” he added.

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