An Australian pig hunter warns that unless Albertans take a tough stand on feral wild boar, they will become a dangerous plague, destroying crops and livestock.
Scott Leggett said he has seen “mobs of pigs” destroy a farm’s crops in Australia in a matter of days.
“The pigs go in and eat the seed, the new sprouts. They can destroy an entire paddock of new crop,” said Leggett, who started hunting the feral wild boar in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales when he was 17.
“It costs billions of dollars in Australia every year,” said Leggett, who now lives in Calgary and works on the oil rigs with a temporary visa.
He said the problem is so bad in Australia that farmers will pay hunters to shoot the pests, which were introduced to the country years ago. Some groups can contain 200 to 300 feral pigs roaming the rural areas.
Leggett said the problem will continue to grow in Alberta unless the province changes its legislation to allow open season on wild boar that have escaped from farms.
“If they don’t have them and have an open season on feral pigs it is going to be as bad as Australia,” he said. “Pigs are going to destroy entire farms.”
Wild boar are considered to be domestic animals in Alberta when they are farmed and pests when they escape.
Some counties and municipalities have bounties on them to encourage hunting, but there are no uniform rules and the animals have proved difficult to shoot.
In Australia, wild boar are partially contained by hunters like Leggett, who have special licences to kill and dress wild boar and sell them to local abattoirs.
The meat is then sold to Japan and Germany. Leggett said it’s possible to earn $5,000 to $20,000 a day killing wild boar and selling the meat.
Most hunters use specially trained dogs to corner and capture the wild boar. Leggett kills animals with a knife through the heart so as not to scare away other wild boar in the area.
“Pigs in Australia were introduced and have adapted to harsh climate and are large and dangerous,” he said. “They’re a lot bigger and meaner than the pigs here.”
However, he said they will grow larger and be harder to stop.
“If it was me, I would do whatever I could to eradicate them.”
Phil Merrill, Alberta’s rat and pest specialist, said the province has drafted new fencing rules for wild boar farmers in Alberta to help reduce the number of animals that escape from farms.
The regulations are winding their way through government, and he hopes they will be passed soon.
“It should have been through a long time ago,” said Merrill.
The proposed regulations would require tougher fencing standards for new operators but give existing operators five years to meet the new standards.
Merrill said the province can develop a control program once the fencing standards are implemented.
Lyle Marianchuk, head of Alberta Agriculture’s inspection and investigation branch, said a date has been set to discuss the “containment standards,” but he is not allowed to say when the discussions would take place.
Earl Hagman, who owns Hog Wild Specialties, a wild boar farm in Mayerthorpe, Alta., said government staff asked him about fencing regulations, but he hasn’t been told when new regulations will be announced.
“Hopefully they’re not going to come up with something that’s going to cost a million dollars and put me out of business,” said Hagman.