Conservation group wants boar annihilated

Eradication plan sought | The animals destroy pastures, eat crops and can injure livestock

Saskatchewan conservationists are the latest group to put the wild boar in their crosshairs.

The destructive animal made the agenda at a Nature Saskatchewan meeting for the first time in Regina in September.

“The nature of their character is the rooting behaviour. One particular place that they can be really bad is in wetlands, so they’re rooting out the cattails to eat the tubers,” said Jordan Ignatiuk, executive director of Nature Saskatchewan.

“So they can devastate a wetland in pretty short order if suddenly you get a group of 12, 15, 20 pigs in there.”

Nature Saskatchewan has 900 members, mostly individual naturalists and bird watchers.

Wild boars are a frequent topic of discussion in agricultural circles, where they’re noted for both their destruction and evasiveness — quickly consuming crops, destroying pastures and spooking livestock. In the United States, the invasive animals, which multiply quickly, are linked to more than a $1 billion in damages every year with millions spent to control them.

Some areas of the province, most notably near Moose Mountain Provincial Park, already have a long history of damage.

Officials can’t put a number to the population in Saskatchewan, but a survey published earlier this year found wild boars have been spotted in 70 percent of the province’s rural municipalities, with researcher Ryan Brook of the University of Saskatchewan warning about the looming threat of population growth and calling for a co-ordinate eradication effort.

Wild boars were first introduced to the province as livestock in the 1990s, and animals that run loose from farms can complicate local control efforts.

At Nature Saskatchewan’s meeting, a resolution was put forward to call for a ban on wild boar game farms.

However, Ignatiuk said the language changed by the time the motion came to a vote.

“It talked about banning them completely and then phasing them out and compensating over two years,” he said.

“Like (somebody) said, there will be no appetite for government to do that. If we start asking for too much, we’re going to get nothing.”

The motion was eventually split into two separate resolutions: one calling for tighter regulation and monitoring of wild boar farms and one calling for an eradication plan with co-operation from the province, municipal governments and conservation organizations.

A similar motion to ban wild boar farming was raised at Alberta’s Agricultural Service Board a few years ago.

“It was defeated because farmers didn’t want to tell farmers what to do,” said Art Preachuk, an agricultural fieldman in Red Deer County.

Since being declared a pest in Alberta in 2008, Alberta officials have introduced tighter restrictions on wild boar fencing systems — to be in place by 2018 — and a bounty on animals in the wild.

That bounty, which provides $50 for a pair of wild boar ears, has seen hundreds of animals killed and has been extended through 2017.

“The bounty is there, but a lot of the feedback from that might be that it’s just scattering them around and making them go nocturnal, right?” said Preachuk.

“There’s ways of hunting them that are more effective, but it needs to have a plan behind it — just not randomly going out and scattering them around the countryside.”

Preachuk said wild boars haven’t been a problem in his area since 2008, following a successful eradication effort.

However, the animals remain a concern in the province, with Lac Ste. Anne County frequently cited as a hotspot.

“With that short experience, we realized how devastating they can be … and that’s why we’ve been advocating to get rid of them all before they end up three million strong like they are in Texas,” said Preachuk.

He said he’s aware of farmer-led efforts to co-ordinate and control problematic populations.

“But there’s no master plan. It’s a provincial thing. They should have a provincial plan,” said Preachuk.

Similar efforts led by farmers and rural leaders exist in Saskatchewan, where funds are available through a wild boar program operated by the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities.

Ignatiuk said Nature Saskatchewan members discussed working with other organizations who may be making similar resolutions.

“Then it’s not just sort of one group that’s lobbying on them or advocating on them or if there’s more than one it makes more sense for the government to listen.”

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