The government is seeking input on their plan to manage the threat of wild pigs through education, regulation and enforcement
By Jackie Clark
The province of Ontario opened a public input period for two proposals having to do with the control of wild pigs on April 21.
The province proposes to classify 13 species, including pigs, as either prohibited or restricted under the Invasive Species Act. The province also proposed a strategy to address the threat of wild pigs. Both comment periods are open until June 7.
The strategy was proposed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) but involves collaboration with other ministries and partners.
“I think all of the collaboration really recognizes that the issue of wild pigs is really cross-cutting,” Bree Walpole, a spokesperson for the biodiversity and invasive species section of the MNRF, told Farms.com. “No single government, ministry, conservation organization or sector can address the wild pig problem alone.”
A wild pig is any pig outside of a fence or building.
“Most wild pigs on the landscape in Ontario as common domestic breeds of pigs, including farmed pigs and pot-bellied pigs,” Walpole explained. “Pet pigs can become wild when they escape or are purposefully abandoned by their owner.”
Ontarians “who acquire a pig and later learn about local restrictions, such as local municipal bylaws prohibiting livestock in urban areas, are faced with the difficult decision of moving or finding a new home for their pig,” she said. “In other instances, individuals may not be aware of the responsibilities of pig ownership. Finding a new home for a pet pig can be difficult.”
In terms of farmed, domestic pigs, “the vast majority of producers who allow their pigs to have outdoor access keep their pigs contained, occasional escapes can occur,” she added.
To help prevent escapes, Swine Health Ontario developed a guide for responsible pet pig ownership, Ontario Pork has published a resource for small scale pig farmers in Ontario, and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has a complementary guide specifically addressing fencing for outdoor production.
MNRF and OMAFRA will continue to work with partners to share and promote those resources, Walpole said.
While the comment period is open, “we encourage people to submit information if there’s specific best management practices or methods for developing best management practices that would be recommended to the province,” Walpole said.
“We do want to recognize that the vast majority of pigs with outdoor access do not escape. There are strong inherit incentives for producers to keep their pigs contained,” she added. Good enclosures safeguard the biosecurity of pig herds.
“Under the current proposal, in the event of an accidental escape, pig owners would be required to notify MNRF immediately, and to recapture or dispatch each pig as soon as possible,” Walpole explained. “Although these rules are being proposed, I think it’s important to acknowledge that recapturing or dispatching escaped pigs is already common practice with many of Ontario’s pig producers.”
The proposed strategy includes enforcement.
“Conservation officers will balance monitoring for compliance with natural resources-related infractions with public safety issues and other enforcement objectives,” Walpole said. “Inspections to determine compliance with the rules may occur, and if determined appropriate, enforcement action may follow, which could result in the issuance of a fine or charge under the Invasive Species Act.”
The proposed strategy also clarifies that though hunting is often thought of as an effective approach to control wild pigs, research and experience in other regions show that it can actually exacerbate their spread.
“The MNRF is pursuing a regulatory amendment to prohibit hunting wild pigs under the Invasive Species Act, 2015,” says the proposed strategy. The proposal also sets out a plan for the phased prohibition of Eurasian wild boar, because they are understood to play a significant role in the spread of wild pigs.
“In Ontario, hunting Eurasian wild boar in captive settings is already prohibited under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act,” explained Walpole. “That ban came into effect in 2005. So, what we’re proposing and currently seeking input on, is using a gradual approach to phase farming of Eurasian wild boar and their hybrids out of the province over a two-year period.”
That prohibition would “ultimately be achieved by banning the import, possession, transport, propagation, buying, selling, leasing or trading of Eurasian wild boar and their hybrids,” she added. Only 275 Eurasian wild boar were processed in 2020, a number that has been declining since 2017.
“The really important context is that wild pigs are recognized as a significant threat to Ontario’s $24 billion swine industry that employs more than 100,000 people,” Walpole said. The proposed phased prohibition “would not apply to owners of domestic pigs, which includes producers of commercial and heritage breeds of pigs and pot-bellied pigs, it’s just specific to the Eurasian wild boar and their hybrids.”
The MNRF relies on the public to report wild pig sightings.
“Sightings have been integral to the ministry in learning about the wild pig problem in the Ontario context,” Walpole explained. Reports allow officials to determine number, location, and coordinate on-the-ground follow up where needed.
MNRF will continue to communicate with the public about the importance of reporting wild pigs, and any sightings of pigs outside of fences should be reported to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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