Big pig problem: What to do after Yukon's wild boar fiasco?
'Why would we take a chance on this?' Group calls for a ban on wild boar farming
A Yukon group is calling for wild boars to be wiped from the territory, fenced or not, after a fiasco this summer.
Seven wild boar escaped from their enclosure into the wilderness, prompting fears the animals could reproduce and become an invasive species.
The Yukon Fish and Game Association, a wildlife advocacy group that draws its membership primarily from hunters and fishers, wants wild boar farming banned in the territory.
"We know with these particular animals that there is potential problems and big problems, so why would we take a chance on this?" said Gord Zealand, the association's executive director.
Enforce regulations, says farmer
Dev Hurlburt farms wild boar outside of Whitehorse, not far from where the others escaped in June.
He uses a variety of fencing to keep them in and wants to see Yukon's fencing standards enforced.
"The reason that those fencing regulations and standards are put in place is because it mitigates the potential invasiveness of that species," Hurlburt said.
The Yukon already has strict enclosure standards that include having electric fencing buried into the ground. The territory says standards are not currently enforced, so farmers don't face any penalty if their enclosures don't meet them.
The enclosure where the boars escaped from this summer did not meet the standards. The owner was fined $400 — not because of fencing, but for allowing the animals to escape.
Sonny Gray, president of the Yukon Agricultural Association, says although the farmer wasn't fined for his enclosure, he still faced huge financial repercussions. The seven escaped female boar were hunted down and killed over a two month period this summer. The farmer lost on the value of the pigs, which sell for between $1,000 and $1,200 each, for their meat.
"So you fined that individual close to $10,000 ... that's probably as steep a fine as you will find," Gray said.
Don't underestimate wild boat threat: professor
Wild boars are considered an invasive species in parts of Canada and most of the United States. When scientists at the University of Saskatchewan found out that several were loose in the Yukon, they watched in shock from a province where the wild boar population is out of control.
Douglas Clark, an associate professor with the university's School of Environment and Sustainability in Saskatchewan, has studied wildlife in the Yukon.
"Thinking that the Yukon is somehow immune or that a small number of females pose no threat strikes me as gravely underestimating the potential magnitude of threat that wild boar pose to ecosystems in the Yukon," Clark said.
The Yukon Agriculture Branch and Yukon's Department of the Environment are now considering ways to keep the animals on their farms. They estimate there are between five and 10 wild boar farms in the Yukon, and say they don't want wild pigs wandering away and invading the rest of territory.
'"We are really going to spend time contemplating how this doesn't happen again," said Matt Ball, director of Yukon's agriculture branch.
He says there needs to be a balance between having wild boar meat available locally, and making sure the animals don't escape.
"So we don't have the problems that have come up in Saskatchewan or Alberta with the feral population that are very smart and hard to contain."