Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) – Management Strategy

By Reanna Moore, Kayla Berger, Ashtyn Dokuchie & Rhiannon Lace

Management Options

Over time, many management practices have taken place around the world, and few have had any lasting effect, especially when wild boar are not confined to islands. Among these options are:  shooting parties, culls and poisonings, government incentives, bounties, and using dogs (Oliver & Leus, 2008; Krull et al., 2016). While there have been marginal success stories with the extirpation of wild boar around the world, they have yet to occur in North America.

Killing wild boar (using whatever methods), has proven to be successful in removing the species only when they are completely eradicated; otherwise the species is able to bounce back, as history as demonstrated in Europe and Asia (Oliver & Leus, 2008). The total eradication of this species would be very difficult in North America, as they are incredibly adaptive and do not depend on a single food source or climate, and there is considerably more continuous land than in Europe. Furthermore, following the extirpation of the boar, there are consistent incidences of escape from farms, serving to potentially restore the population.

In several of the Southern United States, there is a bounty paid for killing wild boar, and they can also be found in restaurants as a main course. Despite years with these measures in place; the population persists. This fact would indicate that wild boar cannot be moderately controlled; if they are present at all in good conditions, then they will begin to thrive since they are ingenious at dispersing over large distances and repopulating.

The main reason to control wild boar is their tendency to destroy crops and to spread disease (as mentioned above). Since the environment (agricultural, rural) that promotes their survival cannot be controlled or kept from the wild boar, then it must be the other way around. Hence an important strategy for Ontario is to prevent wild boar from becoming an issue in the first place, and avoiding the heavy cost of destruction and difficulty of removing them entirely.

Management Matrix

           Considering that very few control strategies have found any degree of success alone, it seems that a combination of tactics would be most effective, some of which have been utilized, as well as some experimental and preventative measures to be explored as well.

Management Methods Cost Benefit Effectiveness
Shooting parties and poisonings – monetary

– time spent hunting for participants

– cost of poison

– personal danger involved

– killed boar can be used as food or sold

– less local destruction to agriculture

– although thousands of animals were eradicated this way, it had very little lasting effect
Bounties and use as food/trophies – monetary cost to government

– personal danger involved

– killed boar can be used as food or sold

– less local destruction to agriculture

– numbers were greatly reduced although not eradicated, likely due to the habitat restriction imposed by small islands
Eliminate the farming of wild boar, encourage hunting – monetary cost hiring researchers

– personal danger involved

– boar will be deterred from agricultural areas and pushed into the forest – numbers are reduced
This report will explore integrated monitoring and management techniques. – time and money for inventory

– cost to those profiting from game farms

– price of tagging

– boar will not become a problem

– avoids potentially millions of dollars of crop destruction

– if done well, there is a high likelihood for success

– program is adaptable based on conditions

– preventative rather than prescriptive

                          Historically, there have not been a wide variety of strategies employed to control wild boar populations, or adequate study to prove a significant level of effectiveness. As well, there are many seemingly contradictory situations in which boar are farmed (and escape), and hunters are encouraged to kill wild boar, while farmers continue to replace their stock, demonstrates a communicative disparity. Essentially, wild boar populations are maintained by human beings, and their desirability is dependent on their side of the fence.

           Management Plan

                      This plan provides details about managing wild boar populations under conditions specific to Ontario, and will discuss a combination of tactics and preventative measures to ensure that wild boars do not become a local issue. Damage to agriculture in the United States alone is estimated at 1.5 billion dollars annually, and this number is considered conservative, due to the difficulty of quantifying other negative impacts caused by wild boar, namely water contamination and interference with domestic pig populations (Tanger et al., 2015). In this case, preventative measures are much less expensive than a lack of action, which means allowing a local wild boar population to establish and dealing with the consequences.

                          In Ontario, there is no consistent population of wild boar, and historically sightings are only reported following incidences of escape from game farms, followed by several years without any record of wild boar. For this reason, measures will be outlined for preventing the initial establishment of a wild population, either from population immigration or game farm escapees, followed by methods to mitigate hypothetical growing populations under the failure of prevention.

                          The first method of control is to complete an inventory of Ontario’s game farms and boar populations. This could be instigated by a private organization or volunteers using an online database, to which the farmers have access. The inventory will include the number of boar, gender ratio, ages (mature versus juvenile) and location. As a further precaution, pigs could microchipped with a unique identification number. In case of an escape, the specific farm (with the distance from starting location) and the individual’s record could be recorded and taken into consideration for further decision making. It would be wise to collect data on farms outside of Ontario as well, in neighbouring states and provinces, since wild boar can disperse fairly quickly over large distances.

                          Due to recent data (shown below in Table 2.), as the number of farms using wild boar as alternative livestock has been declining in recent years, a cap on the number of farms may not be necessary, as long as there are regulations for containing, transporting and monitoring wild boar. The number of wild boar processed in registered meat plants (Table 3.) has remained consistent through the past five years, and as such the risk associated with wild boar escapes appears to remain constant, rather than growing.

Table 2. Census of Agriculture, selected livestock and poultry data, Canada and provinces, every 5 years (number) (Statistics Canada, 2012).
Ontario 2001 2006 2011
Wild boars Number of farms reporting 58 38 14
Number of animals 1,499 1,006 473
Average number of animals 26 26 34
Table 3. Number of Alternative Livestock and Gamebirds Processed for Meat in Ontario in Provincial and Federal Registered Plants Years: 2015 – 2011 (Tapscott, 2016).
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
Wild Boar 487 536 561 392 396

           In continuation, it is advised to devise regulations applied to every farm containing wild boar in order to prevent escapes. There are currently no relevant regulations, as hunting wild boar on game farms (private hunting ground) does not require permits or game tags, and is neither covered by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, nor the Game and Fish Act. The protocol could include acceptable types of fencing to be used on farms and limits on the number of male boar within a given population. A penalty system for incidences of wild boar escape could be put in place to provide additional motivation to properly contain the species, starting with fines escalating in price (based on severity), before the right to possess wild boar entirely is removed.

            On the occasion that a wild population does become established, it would become necessary to ban the import of the species and implement limits (or prohibition) on breeding captive populations. There is already an authorization in effect from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, which allows for the killing of feral pigs under the authority of a small-game license. Each region could employ local groups of hunters or animal control units, to be deployed in case of a wild boar escape. This would involve determining the source of the escaped animal (by contacting nearby farms), and tracking the wild boar until captured or killed. An animal that has escaped once is more likely to attempt further escapes, and it may be necessary to kill the animal rather than returning it to captivity.

Furthermore, the MNRF has already requested that any sightings be reported immediately, and this fact could be publicized throughout social media and news bulletins in affected areas. If wild boar become an issue in Ontario, game farms and the possession of captive boar will be increasing regulated and if necessary, eliminated completely.

Legal Considerations

                      Laws relevant to the control of wild boar fall, for the most part, under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997, S.O. 1997, although the act does not apply to farmed animals (Government of Ontario, 2017). The use of poison is prohibited under the FWCA, and keeping game wildlife requires a license under this act[JF16] . In acknowledgment of the negative potential of escaped wild boar, it would be advisable to offer a limited number of licenses to possess the animals within game farms in Ontario. The Trespass to Property Act is also important to consider if hunting or tracking of wild boar is to occur.

Wild boar sightings and killings must be must be reported to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (Legal Information, 2016). Wild boar are allowed to be hunted under the small games hunting act, this in under the fish and wildlife conservation act under section 54 (5). More information about sighting or reporting incidents can be reported to Mary Dillion, who is a management biologist with the MNRF.

 

           Potential Challenges and Solutions

                      The logistics of completing an inventory of game farms, and any other captive wild boar in Ontario and the surrounding area, may come to depend on the willingness of farmers and locals to participate. One source of motivation from their perspective, is that the prevention of wild boar escapees or an established wild population means that locals can keep their captive populations and businesses with less interference and regulation. Creating a centralized, online database would serve to make the inventory accessible and current, while ministry employees, volunteers or local animal control units could be employed to carry out the inventory, as well as randomized annual visits to ensure accuracy and compliance.

                          In the event of a wild population becoming established, a prominent idea to motivate hunters is to create a bounty for the killed animals. If this is done, it must be done with consideration that this may promote the breeding and subsequent release of animals, in order to attract the monetary incentive. A possible solution is that the bounty, in partnership with the tagging (with a unique identification number or barcode) of each animal, may serve to track the original location of the animal and its farm,  and as such, the farm’s right to possess the wild boar can be removed if there is a suspicious number of escapes. The idea of bounty becomes more realistic in tandem with the inventory described above, although it must be approached with caution nonetheless.

           Conclusion

                          In conclusion, while there are no significant populations of wild boar currently in Ontario, their presence in neighboring provinces and states, as well as their proficiency in colonizing new ecosystems and regions indicates that they are a realistic threat to Ontario’s crops, biodiversity and local captive pig populations (Pastick, 2014). With the cost of destruction to other regions in mind, preventative methods immediately present the most viable solution and prove to be much more practical and cost effective than allowing wild boar populations to establish. It is recommend that an inventory of game farms and other captive wild boar in and around Ontario be taken, while the import and transportation from outside sources be regulated and monitored. The farms possessing wild boar as game animals or alternative livestock will require a certain level of fencing and monitoring to take place. Each individual animal must be microchipped and any wild boar escapes recaptured immediately. This proactive approach will prevent Ontario from re-living much of the destruction that the rest of the world has suffered, and a rare opportunity to learn from other regions and countries, prior to making the same mistake.

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