Politics

MNR monitoring after wild boars spotted in Pickering

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Here’s a new animal kingdom wrinkle: Invasive wild pigs are a thing in Ontario.

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A pack of wild boars was spotted in the Pickering area this week, a development being watched carefully by Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNR).

Wild pigs are an invasive species.

A Pickering resident saw the wild boars in her garden, counting 14 total in the area. They appear to be Eurasian wild boars.

There’s a section devoted to wild pigs on the MNR website that permits people to report the animals. It includes the information that domesticated pigs descended from Eurasian wild boar thousands of years ago, which is why escaped, domesticated pigs that become feral come to resemble their wild boar ancestors. They can quickly grow a dense coat in cold climates if required, for example.

Any pig running free and not under the physical control of a person is considered a wild pig.

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They can be farm pigs, pet pigs or Eurasian wild boars; the province notes, “a small number of Eurasian wild boars have been imported and raised as alternative livestock on farms for meat.”

Eurasian wild boar and their hybrids play a greater role in the establishment and spread of wild pigs and will be phased out of Ontario by 2024. It is prohibited to import or own them after Jan. 1, 2022, but current owners may have a two-year exception — if they notify the ministry by March 1, 2022.

Wild pigs are considered a significant threat to Ontario’s $24B swine industry.

They are not native to Ontario and can have a negative effect on vegetation. They also compete with other wildlife for food, water and space. Their trampling, rooting and wallowing habits are bad for water quality and can contribute to erosion.

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They damage crops and gardens and can spread disease to other wildlife, pets and people.

And they easily reproduce, so the wild pig population spreads fast.

However, according to Dr. Erin Koen, an MNR scientist in the Wildlife Research & Monitoring Section, they are not truly established (i.e., self-sustaining and breeding) yet.

“We don’t have any reason to believe at this time that any of these animals were born in the wild,” said Koen, who adds there are probably small numbers of wild pigs scattered across southern, central, and eastern Ontario.

Right now most appear to be recently escaped livestock.

“Continued vigilance and monitoring is critical to prevent the establishment of this invasive species.”

The group seen in Pickering will be lured with bait and removed together using a corral trap.

Hunting wild boar is not a solution and in fact is prohibited as of Jan. 1, 2022.

Previous attempts to hunt boar make the problem worse by driving the animals into new areas — accelerating their spread instead of curtailing it. Pigs are highly intelligent animals and need no extra incentive to avoid humans.

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There are no reports of wild pigs attacking people in Ontario. As with all wild animals, however, it is wise to avoid wild boars, keep pets away from them and never feed wildlife.

Report any wild boar sightings at wildpigs@ontario.ca or 1-833-933-2355.



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