WATERLOO REGION — The province is rooting out the wild pig problem before they get a hoof-hold in the province.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is asking for public input into a new strategy to deal with wild pigs, and accompanying updates to the Invasive Species Act.
Ontario’s strategy to address the threat of invasive wild pigs is meant to proactively address the threat before wild pigs establish stable populations in the province.
“Based on experiences from other jurisdictions, it is clear that the least costly and most effective approach for managing wild pigs is to act early,” the province writes in the strategy.
The United States Department of Agriculture estimates more than $1.5 billion is lost each year to wild pigs either through damage or lost farming produce. Pigs love to eat agricultural crops and trample the plants and dig up the ground in the process. They also cause significant environmental and water quality damage by rooting up landscapes. They also prey on and compete with native species.
The province’s strategy has four main objectives:
- prevent the introduction of pigs into the natural environment
- address the risk posed by Eurasian wild boar in Ontario
- use a co-ordinated approach to remove wild pigs from the natural environment
- leverage expertise and resources by collaborating across ministries, with federal agencies, other jurisdictions, and industry stakeholders, and partners
Much of the strategy is focused on the first objective: preventing the introduction of pigs into the natural environment.
A key centrepiece is to add wild pigs to the Invasive Species Act. This will make intentionally introducing pigs to the environment illegal and give owners clear actions if a pig is accidentally released. It will also give enforcement officers the authority to address any issues of illegal pig releases.
Other activities include developing and distributing guidelines for the best management practices for keeping pigs outdoors. The province says keeping pigs outdoors poses a much higher risk of pigs escaping.
The strategy also proposes outreach about the dangers of keeping pigs as pets, and also letting pig keepers and producers know their legal responsibilities if a pig escapes.
The province says that in other jurisdictions, there is evidence that humans have intentionally released pigs into the wild. For example, in the United States, “wild pig populations increased in 2008 and 2009 when the hog market crashed.”
According to the strategy, hunting wild pigs will become illegal, and the province will phase out possession of Eurasian wild boar species.
The full draft strategy can be seen on the Environmental Registry of Ontario listing #019-3468 and comments will be accepted until June 7 2021.
Leah Gerber’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative