Wild boars, raised as livestock but destructive when they escape, are pests that should be eliminated from Alberta, say officials in Red Deer County.
Art Preachuk, agricultural fieldman with the county, said the animals should be banned before they become an agricultural plague.
“We are taking this too nonchalantly,” said Preachuk, whose anti-wild boar resolution will be discussed at a provincial Agricultural Service Board meeting in January.
“They have potential to cause massive damage and costs to farmers.”
At a recent U.S. weed conference in Missouri, Preachuk said his counterparts cited wild boar as the largest crop production problem in the state.
“If the boar is on the inside of a fence, it’s livestock. When it escapes, it is now a pest. How can that be possible,” said Geoff Thompson, agricultural fieldman for Lac Ste. Anne County, where the wild boar problem has caused thousands of dollars in damage to crops and hay bales.
“It’s tough to put a dollar value on damage by rooting. Farmers don’t realize how much damage is caused until they get on their swathers in the fall and fall in these big ruts. In the winter months (wild boar) come to bale yards and damage bales. I’ve seen lots of damage over the years from that,” said Thompson.
“We do it with rats. Why don’t we do it with pigs?”
Wild boar were declared pests in Alberta in 2008. The government has paid $26,350 in bounty for 520 wild boar. The largest payments have been to wild boar hunters in the Lac Ste. Anne county northwest of Edmonton.
Quinton Beaumont, agricultural fieldman with Stettler County, said his county just reaffirmed its bylaw declaring wild boar a pest.
Beaumont said one of the biggest problems is the lack of regulations requiring proper fencing to prevent the wild boar from escaping.
Thompson said the government needs to insist on adequate fencing if it doesn’t want to eradicate the animals from the province.
“You see the elk fences out there that are substantial. For wild boar you can string up some barb wire fence and order some pigs.”
Phil Merrill, Alberta Agriculture’s rat and pest specialist, said he has more experience dealing with rats than wild boar, but believes requiring pig proof fencing would ease the tension around feral animals.
“I really think it would have benefit, but I am just not sure if the (agriculture) department is ready to put those stipulations on the pig farmer. Personally I think they should because that would make it less likely for escapees.”
Merrill also doesn’t know how receptive the government is to eliminating wild boar from the list of legitimate livestock.
“I don’t know how protective Alberta Agriculture is going to be about our producers. There are only about half a dozen large producers and maybe half a dozen smaller producers. There is not a lot farmers involved, but I’m not sure if the department is ready to tell those guys they can’t raise hogs.”
Earl Hagman, a wild boar producer from Mayerthorpe, said his livelihood would be wiped out if the province eliminates wild boar from the province.
“It’s our whole livelihood,” said Hagman of Hogwild Specialties.
“God, that would be unbelievable if they said we can’t raise our pigs.”
Hagman said wild boar escaping from farms is a “legitimate concern,” but his biggest fencing problems are caused by people. At least once a month, his fences are cut and his wild boar are enticed with grain and other bait.
When he caught hunters hunting wild boar on his property he called in the RCMP, who refused to lay charges because wild boar have been labeled pests.