Farmers in Alberta and Saskatchewan are grappling with the problem of invasive wild boars, which are destroying crops and ravaging grazing lands.
Since 2003, the province of Alberta has paid out more than $45,000 in boar bounties of $50. At the recent 87th annual general meeting of the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, activists considered lobbying the government to ban wild boars as a game farm animal because of how much of a problem they have become.
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'An ecological trainwreck'
"They're basically mammalian rototillers, and that's what gets them into trouble to a large degree," Keating said.
The animals, which can weigh up to 120 kilograms, have heads that take up nearly one-third of their body's length. The boars have powerful neck muscles, and their noses are equipped with a plate that makes them ideal for digging.
The boars urinate and defecate on grazing areas, which scares cattle from returning. They also eat songbird and duck eggs and destroy crops including wheat, corn and oats.
"They've been called an ecological trainwreck," Keating said.
Because the animals can produce litters of six to 10 piglets twice a year, it is extremely difficult to eradicate their populations from any one area, he added.
How did they get here?
Boars were first introduced into Saskatchewan in the 1990s as part of an agriculture diversification initiative, and some escaped or were released.
"Archaeological evidence indicates that they've been toyed with amongst us humans for something like 13,000 years," he said, adding that most of today's domestic pigs descended from the wild boar.
Humans have made the species, also known as the Eurasian pig, one of the widest-ranging mammals in the world — with 16 recognized subspecies.
Native to Eurasia and North Africa, the animals have been recorded in Hawaii, Australia, the Himalayas and elsewhere, Keating said.