Feral swine still prevalent in Saskatchewan

Nov 01, 2021

Year-after-year, wild pigs continue to invade Saskatchewan, and they seem to be the most successful invasive mammal in Canada.

A group of swine is called a sounder and they have been spotted all over Canada, but Saskatchewan holds the highest sounder population in the country.

These are a hybrid of a domestic pig, and they were brought here in the '80s and '90s from Europe to be brought up as livestock.

They might have escaped from their fences, but there is speculation that the farmers intentionally released them into the wild.

Female pigs can repopulate usually twice a year and have litters with 9-12 boarlets. Meanwhile, male boars can travel miles when mature

Because of that, there's no confusion as to why they populated the wild so quickly.

What makes them an invasive species was not only their foreign origin but also the damage that they leave behind them.

"They can damage private property and have a serious impact on native plants and other animal species due to their feeding habits and their reproductive capabilities. They can also carry viruses and other diseases that can be transmuted to other domestic pigs and other livestock," says Mark Ferguson, General Manager of the Sask Pork Group.

Sounders have been known the tear up land including crop fields to feed on plant roots.

The Sask Pork Group works with the Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation (SCIC) on handling public reports on sounder sightings.

They advise people to refrain from recreationally hunting these wild pigs because they've learned to adapt to human hunters.

They're an intelligent species that is incredible at hiding. If a hunter kills one wild pig that's part of a sounder, the rest of the group will split off and find new secluded places to repopulate. This makes them an animal that is very difficult to track, maintain, and eradicate.

Instead, people are asked to call the Sask Pork Group or the SCIC and report their sightings.

Darby Warner is Executive Director at SCIC and oversees the follow-up investigations from reports.

He says that the process begins with interviewing the person or people who made the report and find out exactly when and where the sighting occurred and then possibly following up with neighbours about it as well. From there a team will come and trap the sounder, hopefully terminating it.

Warner says that wild pigs are not the only issue, "We've had 5 or 6 recent reports that all turned out to be domestic pigs that escaped from somebody's farm. Domestic Pigs were outside of a fence and were reported as feral boars. That's a concern for us because domestic pigs can become feral. They can live in nature just like the wild boar that we're trying to deal with." he says.

If people see a wild pig or evidence that a sounder was in the area, contact the Sask Pork Group at 1-833-744-7768(PIG-SPOT) or call the SCIC Control Program at 1-888-935-0000.

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