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Wild boar sightings across Ontario include a few in Grey-Bruce

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Ontario’s new plan to stop wild pigs from becoming established in the province has a part for you to play.

There have been a few sightings of wild pigs in Grey-Bruce over the past few years and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry would like people to keep reporting them.

The Ontario Invasive Species Strategic Plan calls for prevention, early detection and a collaborative response and management effort to deal with the problem, information on the Environmental Registry says.

The registry is accepting input on Ontario’s draft Strategy to Address the Threat of Invasive Wild Pigs until June 7.

People have been encouraged since 2018 to report sightings by email to wildpigs@ontario.ca and via the website iNaturalist Wild Pig Reporting Ontario.

The iNaturalist site says of the 76 sightings it has recorded, there was a wild boar sighting in 2011 at MacGregor Point Provincial Park, in 2018 on Hay Island, in 2019 between Owen Sound and Shallow Lake, and at Cape Croker (Neyaashiinigmiing). A domestic pig was spotted loose at Kilyth, southwest of Owen Sound, in 2019.

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The provincial strategy says most wild pigs in Ontario appear to be escapees within the province. But wild pigs established in the Prairies and the United States could come here, the ministry’s plan warns.

Wild Eurasian boars in Europe and Asia carry African swine fever, which has not yet been detected in wild boars of North America. That disease, though not harmful to humans, is considered the “largest threat to the global pork industry.”

They’re also carriers of diseases and parasites that affect wildlife, livestock, pets and people. Their “trampling, wallowing and rooting” can “destroy native ecosystems” and threaten water quality and quantity.

“In many areas, damages to the agricultural industry have been devastating.” They can impact almost any crop, including stored crops, and can damage equipment and infrastructure and can prey on livestock, the report said.

The U.S. spends $1.5 billion annually in costs for control and damage compensation. Pig attacks on people are rare but consequences “can be severe.”

The draft plan calls for wild pigs to be listed as an invasive species. If a pig escapes or is otherwise released, the ministry would then have to be notified, licenced hunters would be dispatched in some cases, and enforcement officers would be enabled to deal with any non-compliance.

But an Invasive Species Act regulation would be written to generally ban wild boar hunting, as Quebec and New York have done, because “hunting actually accelerates their spread” by causing the pigs to flee to new areas and learn to avoid humans, the plan said.

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Hunters would still be able to help pig owners in recapturing or dispatching the escaped pig as soon as possible, it says.

And the province also proposes to produce a protocol for a co-ordinated approach, including by trapping and sharp-shooting, to remove entire groups of pigs simultaneously.

Prevention proposals include efforts to ensure pigs are adequately contained, to increase outreach and guidance to pig farmers, and pet owners, to educate them on their obligations if a pig escapes, co-ordinate federal and industry efforts to trace escaped pigs, and support municipal control bylaws.

The plan also proposes to phase-out possession of Eurasian wild boar and their hybrids with some wild boar ancestry in captivity, as New York State has done. Some wild boars are farmed, the plan notes.

And there are instances in the Canadian Prairies of farmers intentionally released their animals when markets are poor, the report said, where they have become “widely established.” The same has happened in parts of the U.S., the plan said.

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