Researchers Boar into the Ecology and Health of Wild Pigs
Introducing Invasive Wild Pigs
The Eurasian wild boar (Sus scrofa) is native to Europe and Asia; however their range has vastly expanded across the world through human translocation. This is a highly successful invasive species that has become the most widely spread large mammal on the planet. This success is due to their highly elusive nature, high reproductive rates, and ability to eat nearly anything. Wild boars cause significant widespread damage to native ecosystems and to crops through their rooting and digging. They harass and depredate livestock, and they can transmit pathogens that represent an important health risk to wildlife, livestock, and humans.
Introduced to Canada from Europe in the late 1980s through the 1990s, wild boar were to be raised as meat for national and international consumption. Cross-breeding of wild boar with domestic swine was encouraged in order to increase animal size, and to produce much larger litters. Escaped or released animals from many farms across Canada established free-ranging populations that began to reproduce in the wild. These cross-bred wild animals, generally called ‘wild pigs’ have since established populations in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.
The Canadian Wild Pig Project
The ‘Canadian Wild Pig Project’ led by Dr. Ryan Brook (College of Agriculture and Bioresources, University of Saskatchewan) has been working to understand the ecology of wild pigs in Canada for five years. Over the past three years, Dr. Brook and his collaborators have been studying the movements, home ranges, habitat selection, and interactions with domestic hog farms of wild pigs in Saskatchewan by tracking individuals using GPS collars. Ruth Kost, a Ph.D. student on the project has been collecting observations of wild pigs across Canada to develop the first baseline map of their distribution in Canada.
Wild pigs are also being tested for disease in collaboration with Dr. Trent Bollinger and Marnie Zimmer of the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (Western/Northern Office). Dr. Bollinger, Marnie, and a 4th year veterinary student (Alex) will be heading to Melfort and Moose Mountain area to assist with a wild pig cull. They will be taking measurements and samples for health assessment as well as disease testing. This part of the research will be conducted as part of a CWHC contract with the Ministry of Agriculture, and will include testing for a number of diseases of domestic swine.
Dr. Brook’s research has been funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, the Saskatchewan Fish and Wildlife Development Fund, and the University of Saskatchewan.
Click this link for the supplemental CWHC info sheet on wild pigs: The_Wild_Boar
(Photos provided by Dr. Ryan Brook)