One of the most devastating and rapidly spreading invasive species on the continent was first spotted in a Canadian national park.
Parks Canada states that wild boars tear up landscapes and eat everything from roots to bird eggs to deer, the only fully fenced national park 40 kilometers east of Edmonton.
“Public viewing and video views provided by landlords confirm that at least one sounder (a sow and a piglet) comes into the park periodically,” said spokeswoman Janelle Verbruggen.
“Physical evidence of rooting and public viewing suggests there may be a second sounder as well.”
Wild pigs were brought to Saskatchewan and Alberta in the 1990s. Some escaped.
Half of Saskatchewan’s 296 rural municipalities now have wild boar, said Ryan Brooke of the Canadian Wild Pig Research Project at the University of Saskatchewan. Their range extends to some 800,000 square kilometers, mostly in the prairies.
In Alberta, pigs have been identified in 28 counties, said Perry Abramenko, who runs the Alberta government’s pig removal program.
“The number of reports received is increasing every year,” he said. “Even if there are hundreds or thousands, nobody comes.”
A hybrid of domestic pigs and European wild boars, animals can reach more than 150 kilograms.
“He’s the single most successful aggressive mammal on the planet,” Brooke said.
Their diet includes ground-nesting birds, their eggs and nests, small mammals, amphibians and even occasional deer. They eat fruits, seeds, leaves, stems, shoots, bulbs, tubers and roots.
Pigs live cocktails in burrows and survive the winter, which Brooke calls “pigloos.”
“They roam the swamps and tear them down to make their nests,” Brooke said. “They contaminate water with soil and pathogens. They destroy crops. They are a public safety hazard and they can spread the disease to humans, pets, livestock and wildlife.”
A 2007 US study suggested that pigs cause about $ 2 billion in annual damage. Another study showed that E. coli bacteria contain 40 times as many pigs as non-streams.
Getting rid of pigs is tough, said Abramenko, who works in the area outside of Elk Island.
“He’s a real challenge to capture. He’s very suspicious.”
After Abramenko’s team confirmed the pig report, it set up a bait with a remotely operated camera. Returning to the bait site may take weeks to make Saunder comfortable.
Once that happens, a coral with a remote operating gate is installed. The team uses the camera while the whole sounder is inside, then they leave the gate.
“It’s important to catch the whole sounder and not have anything on the wrong side of the gate,” Abramenko said. “Any avoidance will result in more trap adaptation.”
Hunting does not help.
“As soon as there is any kind of hunting disturbance, they are dispersed. They occupy new areas. They become nocturnal.
Elk Island – a small park featuring 194 square kilometers of boreal forest and swamps – is the only national park with wild boars ever, but others are likely to follow suit. Brook said Prince Albert National Park in Saskatchewan is probably the next.
“If there are no established wild boars, there will be soon,” he said.
Werbrugen said Parks Canada is seeking help from the Alberta government to eliminate the pigs.
“Parks Canada is looking forward to working together with a unified goal of preventing the establishment of wild boar in the region,” he said.