Feral hogs spotted in Canada national park for first time

Wild pigs seen in Alberta’s Elk Island national park, raising fears they will cause damage to sensitive ecosystems

Feral hogs have been spotted in a Canadian national park for the first time, raising fears that the wild pigs – which in recent years have rampaged across North America – will cause damage to sensitive ecosystems.

Parks Canada has confirmed that wild pigs – a hybrid of domestic pigs and European wild boar – have been spotted in Alberta’s Elk Island national park.

“Public sightings and video sightings provided by landowners confirm that there is at least one sounder [a sow and piglets] in the region that is known to periodically come into the park,” a Parks Canada spokesperson, Janelle Verbruggen, told the Canadian Press.

Elk Island, a fenced-in park 40km (25 miles) east of Edmonton, is home to one of the country’s largest wild bison herds.

The pigs – which can weigh more than 300lb and move in groups called “sounders” – are voracious eaters of roots, bulbs, tubers, bird eggs and small amphibians. They destroy wetlands and contaminate water sources.

“Wild pigs are the worst invasive wild mammal on the planet,” said Ryan Brook, head of the University of Saskatchewan’s Canadian Wild Pig Research Project. “They’re a global menace.”

In Elk Island, where bison herds coexist with elk and deer, Brook said the hogs could upend the delicate balance of the park. Both the grasses the ungulates graze on and the wetlands used by bison, could be destroyed.

“They just rip through the ground, pulling up insect larvae and roots. They just tear everything apart so that it has a harder time growing back. They get into wetlands and they wallow around and they contaminate the water. They just do tremendous destruction,” he said.

The US Department of Agriculture estimates feral hogs cause more than $1.5bn in damage nationwide every year.

Verbruggen said the Alberta government is working with Parks Canada to prevent the hogs from establishing a permanent presence in the area.

The pigs were introduced to Canada’s Prairies in the 1990s by farmers, but have proved impossible to control once they escape the confines of a farm.

Hogs are “extremely smart and elusive”, according to the the Canadian Wild Pig Research Project.

Ryan Brook, who heads up the project at the University of Saskatchewan, told the Canadian Press that while Elk Island is the first to have feral pigs, he suspects Prince Albert national park in Saskatchewan will probably be next.

Experts say trapping is the best method to deal with the hogs – but an entire sounder must be trapped at once, or else the pigs will startle easily and disperse quickly.

While hunting has become an increasingly popular option in the United States – and one that went viral on social media after one farmer asked how he should handle “30-50 feral hogs” suddenly appearing on his property – experts say firearms spook the animals and often make the problem worse.

“While we fully support hunters and hunting, we also acknowledge that nowhere on Earth has hunting ever successfully controlled wild pig populations,” wrote Brook.

Contributor

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
‘Heat dome’ probably killed 1bn marine animals on Canada coast, experts say
British Columbia scientist says heat essentially cooked mussels: ‘The shore doesn’t usually crunch when you walk’

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

08, Jul, 2021 @9:00 AM

Article image
Canada: mother and baby killed by grizzly bear in Yukon
Valérie Théorêt, 37, and her 10-month-old daughter were killed outside their cabin in a remote area

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

28, Nov, 2018 @4:22 PM

Article image
Tiny bird threatens one of Canada's biggest music festivals
The killdeer, a protected bird that weighs less than five ounces, laid eggs in area where the main stage will be for Ottawa’s Bluesfest

Ashifa Kassam in Toronto

26, Jun, 2018 @5:04 PM

Article image
Carrot the deer found in Ontario with arrow sticking out of his head
Wildlife photographer Lee-Anne Carver is trying to share Carrot’s plight in hopes of saving injured deer

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

18, Dec, 2020 @1:24 AM

Article image
US and Canada have lost three billion birds since 1970
Three billion birds have been lost across diverse groups and habitats, in what researchers describe as a ‘wake-up call’

Emily Holden in Washington

20, Sep, 2019 @7:58 AM

Article image
The bison calf taking the first step to rewild the Canadian prairies
Bison herds could once again populate Saskatchewan after the first calf since 1876 was born

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

01, May, 2020 @9:00 AM

Article image
Eat, prey, love: bald eagles adopt baby hawk into their nest in Canada
The hawk, which is usually prey for eagles, is in excellent health after being taken in, and now ‘thinks he’s a bald eagle’, according to one expert

Ashifa Kassam in Toronto

28, Jul, 2017 @6:48 PM

Article image
Canada: locals angry after navy holds live fire exercises in orca habitat
Exercises were conducted in a critical habitat area of the endangered population, Vancouver Island residents say

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

22, Nov, 2018 @11:00 AM

Article image
Canada fisherman killed by whale moments after rescuing it from net
Joe Howlett helped to rescue a north Atlantic right whale that had become heavily tangled in rope and was struck by the mammal afterward

Ashifa Kassam in Toronto

11, Jul, 2017 @9:13 PM

Article image
United Airlines passenger claims scorpion stung him on flight to Canada
Richard Bell seeks compensation after arachnid fell on him from overhead bin, adding to airline’s negative publicity after man injured while dragged from plane

Ashifa Kassam in Toronto

13, Apr, 2017 @4:52 PM