Anyone in the pork industry is keenly aware of the risk that wild pigs pose for agriculture. In regions where wild pigs are native, such as in Europe, they are high risk for spreading diseases such as African Swine Fever (ASF). Discovery of the presence of this disease in wild pig populations has created significant disruptions to trade, not to mention the risk of infecting herds.
Pigs are not native to North America, but escaped domestic pigs and escaped farmed wild boars have come to survive, thrive and quickly multiply in some regions across North America, becoming established in the wild. Once they are established, these ever-growing populations of wild pigs are hard to eradicate. Aside from the risk to pork farming, they can also be devastating to landscapes, tearing up farm fields and destroying natural habitat.
Research indicates that Ontario does not have an established wild pig population – yet. Considering the risks, Ontario is keen to take significant steps to prevent that from occurring. To that end, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) recently posted its “Draft: Ontario’s Strategy to Address the Threat of Invasive Wild Pigs.” Recognizing the seriousness of this issue, the CFFO supports the need to take significant action across Ontario to prevent establishment of pigs in the wild. We are largely supportive of the actions proposed in the draft strategy as likely to be effective in addressing this risk.
The proposal defines “wild pigs” as “any animal of the species Sus scrofa that is not contained or under the physical control of any person or is otherwise roaming freely” and proposes to regulate wild pigs, so defined, as an invasive species under the Invasive Species Act, 2015.
The strategy also proposes to phase out farming of wild boar and wild boar hybrids in Ontario over a two-year period. In response to this, the CFFO recommended immediate prohibition on establishing new wild boar farm operations, clearer definition of wild boar hybrids that will be prohibited for farming purposes and compensation including a buy-out option for current wild boar farming operations.
The CFFO also wants to be sure producers who are serving small markets and raising domesticated breeds outdoors can continue to produce pigs in Ontario. To this end, we recommended a cost-share funding program for suitable fencing and enclosures as well as detailed guidance on best practices to ensure pigs raised outdoors are properly contained.
The strategy also proposes to prohibit hunting of wild pigs in Ontario. This may seem counter-intuitive, but recreational hunting has proven to increase wild pig populations, primarily for two reasons. First, hunted pigs will disperse on the landscape and learn to avoid humans. Second, hunters have been known to release pigs into the wild for greater recreational hunting opportunities. The CFFO also supports prohibiting hunting wild pigs, so long as it is in conjunction with the continued permission for “landowners or agents acting on their behalf [to] be able to protect property from wildlife damage, including for the purposes of biosecurity” as currently indicated in the draft proposal.
The CFFO supports the many instances throughout the strategy that propose active collaboration with others, including working with pig owners, partners in industry, not-for-profit groups, other ministries and levels of government and neighbouring jurisdictions to help address the risks posed by wild pigs. It is good to see a proactive and collaborative approach to this risk being taking in Ontario.