Last week I had the opportunity to vicariously take part in the Banff Pork Seminar, thanks to the coverage by Meristem Land and Science and our industry members' photos and tweets. Close to 750 delegates attended this year and it looks like they headed home with a portfolio full of information and ideas.
While most of the presentations centered on the pigs our industry raises inside, Ryan Brook took the conversation outside to discuss the "pigs outside the fence."
Brook, a University of Saskatchewan wildlife researcher, has spent more time than anyone in Canada studying the challenge of wild pigs, and he says wild pigs are an ecological disaster. He also told attendees the problem is exploding, there is nowhere near enough leadership being shown at any level and time is running out on the ability to eradicate the problem.
Brook's wild pig research efforts are funded in large part by the USDA with support slowly growing from Canadian partners. But there is no doubt he feels the frustration of a seeming lack of interest from across the landscape in Canada.
"A year ago, I thought African swine fever would have driven a whole new level of renewed interest in the wild pig problem," says Brook. "They are an ecological disaster. The habitat damage is huge. They will literally eat anything."
But he adds interest and support has not really increased.
Brook has a checklist of what he sees is needed to make progress on wild pig control.
- Leadership. "There's a real vacuum here and no one is saying let's go kill these pigs. It's a big deal and nobody is getting on board."
- Research and monitoring.
- Judas Pig track and kill control: Capturing a whole sounder (groups run by a matriarch female who will have control over several generations of offspring) killing all but one, putting a tracking collar and releasing that animal to lead them to other sounders.
- Whole sounder removal.
- Policy changes regarding land access.
- Disease testing.
- On-farm risk assessment and mitigation. "Do some test cameras as a cheap and easy way to get started."
- Do not support hunting. "You cannot eradicate wild pigs with sport hunting."
- Get wild boar farms under control.
"No one of these points alone will solve the wild pig problem," says Brook. "It will take a comprehensive plan."
Finally, Brock reiterates that a comprehensive plan should not include hunting.
"We will not barbecue out this problem," Brock says. "If anything, sport hunting increases the problem. Wild pigs scatter and more groups are formed as a result."