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Ministry wants residents to 'squeal' on wild pigs

 
Officials from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry want residents to report any sightings of wild pigs, including in Chatham-Kent, where someone captured a photo of two of these animals on a farm last fall.
 
The ministry has set up a page on iNaturalist at www.inaturalist.org/projects/ontario-wild-pig-reporting for residents to document any possible wild pigs in Ontario. Sighting information can also be emailed to MNRF-SpeciesConservationPolicyBranch@ontario.ca.
 
So far, 31 sightings have been added to the page. The pigs from the Chatham-Kent farm are not on the website because they were spotted before the webpage was created and the photo was only posted to social media, said Erin Koen, a research scientist with the ministry.
 
However, Koen said it is possible there are still wild pigs – meaning Eurasian wild boars, escaped domesticated pigs or hybrids – in the area.
 
“The reality is there are lots of people who see lots of things that don’t know … they should report because it doesn’t occur to them that that’s something that someone might be interested in knowing,” she said.
 
“There are probably a lot of people that have seen wild pig,s but we haven’t connected with them yet to know that we’d like their sightings.”
 
The iNaturalist page shows most of the reported wild pigs have not been in Southwestern Ontario. Someone recently reported a wild boar on Peche Island in Windsor, although the ministry has not yet confirmed the type of animal.
 
The next closest report was in Woodstock.
 
Koen found the photo of the Chatham-Kent pigs from a Twitter post by Ryan Brook, an associate professor in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan.
 
Brook said the photo was sent to him through social media since his area of focus has been wild boars.
 
He said there have only been a “handful” of wild boar sightings in Ontario over the past 10 years, adding he can’t recall any other sightings near Chatham-Kent. The data he has collected puts most of the sightings in eastern Ontario, close to the U.S. border.
 
Although Ontario wild boar sightings have been rare, the situation in Saskatchewan, where these animals could soon have greater numbers than humans, should act as a warning, said Brook.
 
“The time to act is now. If you wait until you’re a Saskatchewan and you’re overrun with wild pigs, it’s far too late,” he said. “Eradication becomes difficult, if not impossible, and certainly exceedingly expensive.”
 
Koen said wild boars can pose some serious risks, ranging from disrupting sensitive ecosystems to spreading diseases to destroying crops.
 
She said they have carried African swine fever in other parts of the world – but not North America – which can then spread to farms through domestic pigs. The likelihood of this happening in Ontario is not known, she said.
 
As well, wild boars eat a lot, said Koen, and can take food away from other mammals, such as deer, and will eat eggs from ground-nesting birds such as turkeys.
 
Koen said wild boars in other parts of North America have been known to trample and root in corn fields, destroying the crops in the process. The extent of this in Ontario is not known, she said.
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