Wild pigs roaming around Ontario? It may sound harmless, but these feral hogs are no joke. In fact, they’re highly invasive and have been known to topple agricultural businesses and devastate ecosystems. That’s why the Invading Species Awareness Program (ISAP) is working hard to make sure the pigs don’t make Ontario their new home.
ISAP, which was launched in 1992 as a collaboration between the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources, and Forestry and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH), rolled out its Wild Pig Surveillance Program last year. The program is an effort to broaden its scope of monitoring in Ontario, in response to concerns about the expansion of the Eurasian wild boar, which was introduced here as livestock in 2001.
As part of the program, ISAP created surveillance kits that it shipped to 50 volunteers throughout Ontario. Thirteen surveillance kits were set up in Lanark County near Ottawa, and 40 were set up around Parry Sound. The surveillance kits include a Spypoint Trail Camera, a Spypoint Lockbox, a Python Lock, two 16 gigabyte memory cards, and an information sheet on wild pig detection protocols.
The goal is to identify and round-up any groups of wild pigs (known as sounders) before they become established within the province. “These things are extremely destructive. They will cause huge amounts of economic loss to agriculture as they pillage farms,” says Brook Schryer, who works for ISAP as part of the OFAH. “They’re also a threat to native species because they’re a non-selective omnivore. These things are voracious. They eat a lot, and they will eat whatever they find.”
In rare cases, wild pigs have also been known to attack and kill humans.
Wild pig populations have established themselves in many southern states, including Florida and Texas. ISAP estimates that the pigs account for approximately $1.5 billion in economic losses to the agricultural industry each year in the U.S.
There are also reports of sightings in Minnesota and Manitoba, Schryer says, two regions that border Ontario. Once established, it can be extremely difficult to get rid of the wild pigs as they reproduce every six months, giving birth to litters of four to 10 piglets.
“They’re also exceptionally intelligent,” Schryer says. “They can understand when they’re being hunted. Let’s say it’s during the day, they’ll start to adapt by being more nocturnal because they understand that they’re not being hunted at night.”
“The reason why we put cameras in those locations was strategic,” Schryer says. “There was a wild pig jaw that was found in Lanark County the year prior. So, we knew that there could hypothetically be wild pigs there.” ISAP chose Parry Sound because the region covers a large swath of land and there were a number of keen volunteers in the area.
The surveillance kits captured over 77,000 images, none of which included wild pigs. Instead, ISAP received thousands of wildlife photos of black bears, deer, moose, and other non-invasive species, Schryer says.
Beyond the surveillance, ISAP did receive 34 reports of the invasive pigs through its hotline and website. This includes the 14 Eurasian wild boars that were rounded up just north of Pickering last November.
In 2022, ISAP expanded its surveillance program to northern Ontario. “There’s fewer eyes up in northern Ontario, so we wanted to get these cameras out there,” Schryer says. ISAP’s range of surveillance now stretches from Thunder Bay almost to the Manitoba border. The program taking applications for volunteers to set up monitoring kits. “Anybody who has a hunt camp or anything like that, we encourage them to receive a kit and get them out there.”
So far, ISAP has received three or four reports of wild pig sightings in 2022. “The majority of reports that we have seen in Ontario have been domestic pigs that have escaped,” Schryer says. “In most circumstances, the government is able to follow up and ensure that the pigs are getting back to the rightful owners.”
If you spot a wild pig, you can report it to ISAP by calling 1-800-563-7711 or through this website.