HomeOutdoorsNewsSpike in Canadian ‘Super Pig’ Population Could Spill Into Northern U.S.

Spike in Canadian ‘Super Pig’ Population Could Spill Into Northern U.S.

by Brett Stayton
Herd Of Hogs Runs Through Field
Photo by JMrocek/Getty Images

Feral hogs are already well established throughout much of the U.S. Especially in warmer places like Texas, Florida, and California. Wild pigs have been reported in at least 35 states, but their primary range is geared toward the southern half of the country. Harsh winters have mostly kept feral hogs from rapidly spreading north. In recent years, hog populations have started to thrive in Canada though. Scientists are concerned those invasive super pigs could soon spread throughout the Dakotas, Montana, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota.

According to Field and Stream, these Canadian hogs are a cross between wild boars and domestic pigs. That genetic makeup better equips them to handle cold climates. That could be a big problem for northern states. While feral hogs have been roaming America for centuries, it’s a relatively new occurrence north of the border. Dr. Ryan Brook who leads the University of Saskatchewan’s Canadian Wild Pig Research Project explains. “The U.S. has a 400-plus year history with invasive wild pigs, but we didn’t have any here until the early 1980s,” he says. “There was a big push to diversify agriculture with species like wild boars and ostriches. Wild boars were brought in from Europe to be raised on farms across Canada.”

Wild Boars and Domestic Hogs Hybridizing Into Super Pigs

Many of the early hogs brought into Canada were stationed on domestic meat farms. However, some of them were left to roam hunting preserves instead. Soon, pig farmers began to crossbreed wild boars they brought in for hunting with domestic hogs from their agricultural operations. Domestic pigs typically grow much larger than wild boars. This increased size has made hardier feral hogs more capable of withstanding frigid wintertime temperatures.

“For surviving in cold winters, one of the rules of ecology is: the bigger the better,” said Dr. Brook “Larger body animals survive the cold better and have better reproduction in those conditions.”

Dating back to the early 2000s, the commercial market for farmed boars bottomed out. With no one to sell the boars to, they lost their value. This means countless pig farmers simply set their boars free from enclosures. Canada’s feral hog population then exploded in subsequent years. Wild hogs now roam through parts of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Alberta.

“That they can survive in such a cold climate is one of the big surprises of this issue. The Prairie Provinces are where we have the coldest winters in Canada except for the very far north,” says Brook. “One of the things they do to survive is a tunnel under the snow. They go into a cattail marsh and channel into the soft snow and cut nests in the cattails. If you go early in the morning on a cold day, you can actually see steam pouring out the top of the nests.”

Super Pigs Potentially Spreading to Northern United States

While some people are happy that the presence of wild hogs provides year-round hunting opportunities, others know their propensity for out-competing native wildlife could be detrimental to fragile ecosystems. Wild hogs feed on anything. They gobble up tons and tons of goslings and ducklings in the spring. They can take down a whitetail deer, even an adult. Originally, it was like ‘wow, this is something we can hunt.’ But it’s become clear that they’re threatening our whitetail deer, elk, and especially, waterfowl. Not to mention the crop damage. The downsides outweigh any benefit wild hogs may have as a huntable species,” said Dr. Brook.

Those super pig populations are getting closer and closer to the U.S. as well.  “We have already documented pig occurrences less than 10 miles from the U.S. border. Quite honestly, I think there have already been some in Manitoba going into North Dakota for the last 5 or 6 years,” he said. “There is no physical, biological boundary at the U.S.-Canada border. There is hardly any kind of fencing to speak of. There’s a real risk of pigs moving south into the U.S.”

Global News previously ran a report about the threats feral hogs pose in Canada.