Hope you’re feeling pork for dinner, because Canada may be facing a serious surplus of the other white meat.
A type of wild pig originally brought over to a few farms from Europe in the ’80s and ’90s has been reproducing and wreaking havoc across the Canadian prairies after breaking through national park boundaries in Alberta for the first time this fall.
According to an expert sourced by the Toronto Star, the pigs are “the most successful invasive large mammal on the planet,” having survived decades of Canadian winters at temperatures lower than -40 degrees and the hot led of the Saskatchewan Moose Mountain Wild Boar Eradication Team, a posse of disgruntled prairie farmers that formed to cull the invaders with shotguns when government intervention never came.
The prairie pig population has since expanded to Saskatchewan from Alberta, and a horde of boars thought to have escaped from a farm was even recently spotted outside the GTA.
Lock up your turnips, Hogtown! The pigs are coming!
“They’re ecological train wrecks,” Ryan Brook, an assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan, told The Star. “They just cause this wave of destruction. We went into an area where pigs were really well established, and one thing that really struck me was the silence. You didn’t hear birds, you didn’t hear insects, you didn’t hear frogs. It was just silence.”
Without any natural predators to keep them in check, wild pigs have been thriving on the Canadian landscape. They’ve grown larger and more resilient with each generation, eating anything they can get their snouts on, from small birds and baby dear to insect larva and all sorts of plants, doing an estimated billions of dollars in damages to crops and livestock, and leaving a trail of e.coli and salmonella in their wake.
As a cross between Eurasian wild boar and domestic hogs, they regularly grow up to 450 lbs, and are covered in wiry black and brown coats. And they’re smart! Attempts to exterminate them in Alberta with the same approaches the province has used to remain rat free for a century have proved useless. The pigs break through fences, evade traps, scatter and dig “pigloos” in the snow to hide from hunters, and often take multiple shotgun blasts to kill.
With the population going hog wild on the prairies, the recent sightings in Ontario have experts like Brook warning people not to put these porkers on the back burner.
“I think Ontario is in a really interesting position because there are relatively few sightings right now. And so Ontario is sort of standing at the crossroads.”