Wild pigs could outsmart Alberta’s new bounty hunters, boar expert warns


An open hunt intended to eradicate Alberta’s wild boar population could instead make feral hogs more elusive to bounty hunters, a researcher warns.

The province has put a bounty on the heads of wild pigs — reinstating a bounty program designed to root out stubborn populations of invasive species.

The hunt must be managed carefully, said Ryan Brook, an associate professor in the University of Saskatchewan’s agriculture department and director of the Canada Wild Pig Research Project.

Sporadic hunting will make animals harder to track, Brook said. The boar quickly learns to scatter and evade threats – and will pass these tricks on to its young.

“Wild pigs are incredibly smart, incredibly elusive,” Brook said.

“The more you put pressure on them by chasing them or shooting them – any kind of thing that puts pressure on them and makes them nervous – they will become more and more nocturnal to the point where they may only be active in total darkness.”

The province announced Tuesday that government-licensed hunters, landowners and trappers will be rewarded for killing wild boar.

Trappers will get $75 per set of ears, in hopes they killed an entire sounder. Hunters and landowners will also receive $75 per set.

The hunting bounty is a pilot program that began on April 1 and will continue next year. To date, Stettler County and the Municipal District of Peace have signed on.

The trapper component of the program will continue until spring 2024.

The wild boar program includes expanded surveillance and new compensation for farmers.

Wild pigs are destructive and adaptable. Dozens of them have been spotted across North America. (Submitted by Ryan Brook)

Brook said there is no silver bullet to eradicating prolific breeders. Increased surveillance along with trapping efforts will likely be the most effective, he said.

“One of the things that really stands out in a positive way for the Alberta program is that it recognizes that there’s no one tool to solve this problem,” he said. he declares. “There is no single magic option that will remove them.

“I have some reservations about bounties, but I’m hesitant to be overly critical because any time someone does things to find and remove pigs from the landscape, that’s a very good thing.”

Alberta is waging a decades-long battle against pigs, which have been spotted in at least 28 municipalities.

Rage

The wild boar’s ability to survive in almost any climate makes it one of the most prolific invasive species in North America.

A hybrid of domestic pigs and European boars, the animals can weigh up to 150 kilograms and have a woolly undercoat that protects them from the cold.

They typically live in the forest, emerging to devour crops, contaminate water sources, and harass livestock. They also carry diseases that can be transmitted to domestic pigs.

They have been found in at least 39 states, with entrenched populations in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba with scattered infestations in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.

They can make a living out of anything. They can eat a stone and live off it, I think.-Allen Williams

One of the largest wild populations is in Texas, where bounties have been in place for years.

Boars are very intelligent and hunting them too heavily in one area can just lead them into new territory, said Allen Williams, owner of Dos Plumas Hunting Ranch, a hog hunting ranch northwest of Abilene.

“If you put enough pressure on them, they’ll just find another place to go that’s impenetrable.”

The animals are smart, incredibly hardy and will eat almost anything, he said.

“They can adapt to anything,” Williams said. “They can make a living out of anything. They can eat a stone and live off it, I think.”

Wild boar were first introduced to Alberta in the 1970s and 1980s for ranching and game farming.

In those days, pigs were often allowed to roam freely. Few people thought feral hogs could survive Alberta winters. Instead, the escapees thrived.

The Old Yeller Effect

In May 2008, as hogs began to destroy crops with increasing frequency, the province declared them official pests and launched a bounty program, offering Albertans $50 per hog.

Over 1,000 boars have been killed under the scheme, but it was closed in 2017, partly due to declining interest.

Williams expects hunters from Alberta to want to join Albera’s bounty hunt.

He said there is a certain mystique about the animals, which he attributes to a scene in the Disney film Old Yeller when a young farmer is attacked by feral pigs.

“It created in everyone’s mind, at such a young age, that these things are out to kill whatever comes their way,” he said.

“That feeling of excitement, that bit of danger, if you will, is a fixation.”

Brook said to reduce wild boar populations, the province will need to combine strategies because hunting alone will be ineffective. (Submitted by Ryan Brook)