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'Super-pigs' from Canada are rampaging toward the US border

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  • 'Super-pigs' from Canada are rampaging toward the US border

    250-pound 'super-pigs' are rampaging toward the US border

    By Bronwyn Thompson
    May 30, 2024

    A problem shared is not always a problem halved, as invasive wild "super-pigs" that have wreaked havoc on Canada now threaten to cross the border and for the first time populate the northern US.
    Following more than a decade of research, University of Saskatchewan (USask) scientists have now found that these super-pigs are expanding their territory by a massive 9% each year, leaving a path of ecological and agricultural destruction in their wake. And they're quickly closing in on the northern border.

    “The growing wild pig population is not an ecological disaster waiting to happen – it is already happening,” said USask’s Ryan Brook, USask professor and lead researcher for the Canadian Wild Pig Project, a Canada-wide research program. He's also been called the 'Chairman of the boar' – in recognition of the 14 years he's dedicated to studying these animals.

    So, why super-pigs? While the name has made some scientists roll their eyes, there's some truth to the title. In the late 1980s, Eurasian wild boar were introduced for game farming and fenced-in hunting. But, as is usually the case, when market demand changed, they fell out of favor with farmers; some were reportedly released into the wild, while others are said to have made like Pablo Escabar's cocaine hippos and made a break for it, in search of greener pastures.

    And somewhere along the way they bred with domestic pigs, and in doing so found an ecological superpower: supreme cold tolerance and size thanks to the imported breed, and a high rate of reproduction like the farmed animals. An ecologist could describe this as a perfect storm, because as super-pig numbers rapidly increase, they easily adapt to new environments, free of the habitat constraints and migration challenges that most animals face.
    What's more, the super-pigs can breed in any season, and sows will have a litter of around six piglets annually. The young are sexually mature in four-to-eight months, and not even a harsh winter can slow them down, as they thrive in the snow, living in 'pigloos' underground. They're also not fussy eaters, and will demolish crops such as corn, wheat, sugar cane and canola, as well as native insects, birds, reptiles and other, smaller, mammals. This is on top of the destructive 'renovating' they do by rooting around in the soil.
    And the latest aerial surveys confirmed what the scientists had earlier predicted – the super-pigs have been seen on the Canada-North Dakota border, and just 28 km (18 miles) from Minnesota's state line. The new research suggests that South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Minnesota are all facing this super-pig invasion, which could cost billions in agriculture losses.
    A problem shared is not always a problem halved, as invasive wild "super-pigs" that have wreaked havoc on Canada now threaten to cross the border and for the first time populate the northern US.


    Potential landscape connectivity for invasive wild pigs (Sus scrofa) across the northern prairies of North America

    Original Paper
    Published: 09 May 2024

    Corey J. Kramer, Melanie R. Boudreau, Ryan Powers, Kurt C. VerCauteren, Ryan S. Miller & Ryan K. Brook

    Understanding landscape scale connectivity is an essential component in the management of invasive species since connectivity facilitates their invasion potential. Invasive wild pigs (Sus scrofa) are among the most prolific invaders on the planet, causing billions of dollars in agricultural and environmental damage annually. Newly introduced to Canada in the 1980s, we examined wild pig invasion potential across the northern prairies from western Canada into the currently wild pig-free northern U.S. states. We used GPS collar data collected in the Canadian prairies to quantify resource selection and incorporated results into an electric circuit theory framework to evaluate potential regional landscape connectivity. While available landcover types in this region were dominated by crops and grasslands, wild pigs were predominately located in deciduous forest, crops, and wetlands. Resource selection modelling indicated wild pigs selected deciduous forest and wetlands over other landcover types. These selection tendencies resulted in areas at greater risk of occupation in an intermixture dominated by crops interspersed with waterbodies and deciduous forest fragments, which facilitated movement. Given the pervasiveness of this intermixture across the northern prairies, there was a high potential for invasive wild pigs to move throughout much of the region with areas in southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, northeastern Montana, North and South Dakota, and western portions of Minnesota being particularly vulnerable. Our work highlights a need for monitoring and science-based response strategies for likely southward spread of this invasive species to prevent or reduce potential crop damage, risks to native species, and disease transmission to humans, pets, livestock, and wildlife.

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