Feral pigs can be very destructive and are known to spread disease.

As the province prepares to deal with a dozen escaped farm hogs that have caused significant damage to the Cowichan Golf Club south of Duncan over the past two months, an invasive species group says it’s important to solve the problem quickly.

Gail Wallin, executive director of the Invasive Species Council of BC, said once hog drifts escape farms, they can quickly reproduce, become much more aggressive and take root in crops and wetlands. , causing significant damage and even spreading disease to livestock.

Wallin said feral hogs are considered the most wanted invasive species in the province today and pose serious risks to the environment, economy and human safety. “We need to be on top of this problem right away because [feral pigs] can have several litters – three or more per year – in the wild.

Three provincial agencies are working together to round up the feral pigs at the golf course, whose operators say the animals have caused thousands of dollars in damage.

The golf club’s head pro, Norm Jackson, said the pigs hadn’t been aggressive towards people, but he wanted them out as quickly as possible. He said the province hasn’t shared details of its hog disposal plan, but he hopes trapping or some other measure will begin soon.

A Department of Environment spokeswoman said Friday that staff are in contact with the owner of the pigs to round them up, and if the situation requires further enforcement, the Conservation Officer Service is the agency. responsible under wildlife law.

If a decision is made to capture the feral pigs, the Forestry Department will lead removal efforts, the spokeswoman said.

It is not known exactly how many feral pigs are found in British Columbia

The province says small populations are occasionally reported in the Lower Mainland, Thompson-Okanagan, Chilcotin, Peace and Kootenay regions – as well as Bamfield on the island. They are usually discovered near the farms from which the animals escaped.

Feral pigs are the descendants of domestic pigs that have escaped and may or may not have mated with feral pigs. A small population was observed as early as 1990 in the Dawson Creek area.

Pigs are considered intelligent and highly adaptable to any terrain.

Province says large established feral pig populations are ‘unregistered’ [in B.C.] right now,” but that’s a whole other story in the prairie provinces.

The animals are believed to be out of control in Saskatchewan, where European boars with coarse black hair and big tusks were introduced in the 1990s to help diversify farming operations, but have seen several escapes.

The province now offers crop insurance to help farmers offset losses.

Ryan Brook of the Canadian Wild Pig Research Project, based at the University of Saskatchewan, told CBC last year the province was on track to have more wild pigs than people. Brook said pigs go feral almost immediately after escaping from a farm, and populations are increasing in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario.

“They can harass livestock, eat crops, breed like crazy and are a general nuisance. Even the scent of a new person in an area can send this species underground, making it difficult to locate,” Brook told the Nature Conservancy of Canada, where he is a board member.

He calls feral pigs the worst large invasive mammals on the planet because, in addition to damaging fields and infrastructure while foraging for food, they can spread disease to humans, wildlife, livestock and livestock. company.

Wild boars also threaten amphibians, ground-nesting birds, crustaceans, small mammals, molluscs and reptiles.

Southern states in the United States are infested with feral hogs, and northern states such as Washington and Montana are concerned about Canadian populations moving south, said Wallin, who will represent the Invasive Species Council of the British Columbia at an international conference in Calgary next week to discuss wildlife. pig populations.

“The challenge with any invasive species is that people only realize it when it’s out of control and too late,” she said.

In a statement to Times Colonistthe Department of Agriculture said the provincial government recognizes the threats posed by feral hogs and staff have investigated areas with historical and recent reports of the animals.

Although to date no known feral breeding populations have been identified in British Columbia, the ministry said it is “critical that this remains so, and that the distribution and abundance of feral pigs in British Columbia British be kept to a very low number, if any.”

Once a pig leaves an owner’s property and is not captured, it becomes “wildlife” and the government has the power to capture or destroy it. In addition, a pig that is not in captivity or otherwise under the control of a person is designated as a Schedule C wildlife animal and may be hunted by licensed hunters with no closed season or hunting limit. taken.

Wallin, however, discourages hunting, saying shooting can disperse pigs into small groups and increase breeding populations.

The province said any sightings of feral pigs (or pigs that have escaped from an owner’s property) should be reported immediately, either through the Report Invasives smartphone app or online at gov.bc.ca/invasive-species.

For urgent situations or when there may be a threat to human safety, call the Report All Braconers and Polluters (RAPP) line in British Columbia at 1-877-952-7277.

[email protected]

— With files from The Canadian Press

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