Rise Of Feral ‘Super Pigs’ Who Live In Pigloos ‘Worrying’ Experts
Feral ‘super pigs’ are defying the odds, ruthlessly foraging Canada’s cold lands and building ‘pigloos’ to keep themselves warm.
Over the past year, large, hungry feral hogs have been causing great concern across the US and Canada, as both country’s beasts invade the other’s crops.
It all stems from the 1980s and early 1990s, when Canadian farmers imported European wild boars. However, as pesky swine are prone to do, some escaped into the wilderness, never to be seen again. Experts thought they wouldn’t survive – they were wrong.
As years passed, these escapee hogs and their descendants got frisky with domestic pigs. The end result today is a 600lb-plus creature (more than twice the weight of a standard wild boar) with a gift for reproduction, bracing the harsh weather and munching its way through swathes of pretty much anything: hence, ‘super pigs’.
Ryan Brook, a wildlife researcher with the University of Saskatchewan, told National Geographic: ‘We should be worried, because we know the biology. They’re called an ecological train wreck for a reason.’
As per a 2019 paper in Scientific Reports penned by Brook and Ruth Aschim, a doctoral candidate at the University of Saskatchewan, feral hogs’ territory has seen a recurring exponential increase. Over the past decade, they’ve taken a further 88,000 square kilometres every year. Cumulatively, their range is estimated at more than 777,000 square kilometres.
While feral hogs are typically associated with warmer, humid areas like Florida and Texas, in Canada it’s ‘the exact opposite’. ‘The coldest spots – Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, sort of north-central – is where we have, by far, the most pigs,’ Brook explained.
With their sharp teeth, the hogs cut down cattails to line their pigloos, which are deeply burrowed tunnel-esque shelters that capture enough steam to keep them warm. This helps to sustain their reproduction, and furthermore progresses ‘a rapidly emerging crisis’.
Their resistance falls back to biology. Back in February this year, a study published in Molecular Ecology looked at the genetic makeup of the US’s feral animals, finding they came from a solid mix of industrialised domestic livestock and wild boar.
Canada’s animals, however, are more in line with the latter, and while their descent from European boars is clear, it’s the interbreeding that followed that’s birthed such a surge in population. ‘If we had true Eurasian wild boar without any domestic pig, this whole issue would be a lot easier to handle… reproductive rates would be lower,’ Brook added.
They’re not picky eaters either, and as they pillage farms, wooded areas and wetlands, they’ll eat wheat, barley, canola and other plants, as well as small birds, reptiles, mammals and eggs. In the US, their damage to wild crops is estimated between $1.5 billion and $2.5 billion, as per The New York Times.
In Canada, it’s only a recently discovered issue. ‘No one even knew where they were,’ Aschim said. However, despite acknowledging the problem, progress has been slow on any sort of action plan to reduce the numbers. Regretfully, it looks like the scale of the country’s feral hog invasion is very much in its infancy.
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CreditsNational Geographic and 3 others
The New York Times