SARM wants a moratorium on wild boar farming in Saskatchewan. dealing with “invading beasts”
The Saskatchewan Rural Municipalities Association is calling for a moratorium on wild boar farming, saying wild boars tend to escape and become “invasive beasts.”
The association says more than 60 rural municipalities in southern Saskatchewan suffer from an overpopulation of wild boar.
“They destroy crops. They also damage native pastures,” said Ray Orb, president of the association. And that’s on top of the damage caused by a severe drought last year, he said.
“We have seen the evidence in other jurisdictions where the damages [from boars] was quite serious,” he said.
“Somehow there also needs to be better control of these animals. So that’s something we need to talk to the province about.”
In a press release Thursday, SARM said wild boars, which are not native to Canada, made their way to Saskatchewan in the late 1970s as domestic livestock. Over time, many escaped and reproduced at a rapid rate.
This invasive species now roams freely.
This is not the first time that the association of rural municipalities has called for a moratorium on wild boar farming. Orb said he has been doing this since 2019, but no provincial action has been taken.
In 2016, provincial wildlife regulations were changed to allow hunters to hunt wild boar year-round without a permit, according to SARM. But Orb said the boars are difficult to hunt and the population continues to spread.
Illness is another concern, he said.
“We know some of these wild boars carry disease, and it would be devastating if disease were transferred to a domestic hog farm…and we have several of those in Saskatchewan.”
Number of farms unknown
Ryan Brook has studied wild pigs in Saskatchewan for over 12 years. He is an associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan and director of the Canadian Wild Pig Research Project.
“Invasive feral pigs are listed as one of the worst invasive species on the planet for a reason — because they reproduce very, very quickly,” Brook said.
He said boars can have six pups per litter and usually have several litters a year. He said they have spread out of control in the Prairie provinces, especially in Saskatchewan.
“[They cause] crop damage, environmental impacts. And they can be aggressive and can pose a public health hazard as well. So they tick every box as the worst invasive species you can imagine.”
Brook said wild boar farms are not regulated or monitored in Saskatchewan.
“The reality is, nobody knows how many farms there are out there. wild pigs,” Ruisseau said.
Brook said he knew of more than a dozen boar farms in the province. There are two types of wild boar farms.
“There’s what we would call a meat farm, which primarily, obviously, produces meat for restaurants and for consumers. And then these types of what we call a high-fence turning operation, which is designed to specifically allow people to come in and shoot a pig.”
Brook said many pigs are escaping or owners are simply letting them go – and the problem is spreading.
“We haven’t seen a lot of immediate action on this, and we still have these boar farms,” he said.
“There are a few options here. Removing them is one. Another would be to have very high fencing standards and have oversight.”
Province acknowledges concerns and minimizes impact
In a statement from a spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture, the province confirms that invasive wild boars damage crops and act as reservoirs of disease. He says he is aware of the MRSA moratorium request and will review it as discussions continue.
He goes on to note, however, that over the past two years, the crop insurance program has paid out $47,000 for 13 boar claims, while the 5-year average wildlife compensation is $25. millions of dollars.
In addition, hundreds have been removed through eradication programs – 672 over the past 5 years. There have been 22 sightings reported since March 2021: 4 sightings of domestic pigs, 13 confirmed sightings of wild boar and 5 classified as unknown.