A wild pig farmer and a wild pig researcher are in disagreement about Saskatchewan’s announcement that it will add new policies to control the boar population in the province.
The province announced Wednesday that wild pigs and boars would be classified as a pest under The Pest Control Act and that it would develop regulations for licensing existing commercial wild boar farms while planning to reject any new ones.
The provincial Ministry of Agriculture said in an email that licensing regulations would introduce more on-farm inspections and oversight, including certain fencing requirements.
“The funny thing is we’ve already got regulations on our farms,” said Kelly Readman, a 27-year boar farmer with approximately 300 pigs on about 200 acres of land east of North Battleford.
“We already get inspected … every year, we already have standards for our fencing, I already have a game farm licence.”
He claims that the problem isn’t as widespread as the province believes, including in the Saskatchewan wild, and that cracking down on existing farms is unnecessary. He said insurance claims to Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corp. (SCIC) and SGI — for accidents related to boar — don’t reflect a problem.
In an email, SGI said it does not specifically categorize collisions with wild boar, instead lumping them in an “other wildlife” category.
In total, there are an average of 12,231 collision with deer each year (about $80.2 million in costs), 570 claims for moose ($564,612), 1,766 claims for birds ($314,041) and 1,890 claims for other wildlife ($1.9 million).
The SCIC said in an email the five-year average compensation due to wildlife is $25 million. In the last two years, the SCIC paid $47,000 in crop damage from 13 wild boar claims.
“This total average of compensation payments includes all wildlife damage claims, with wild boar damage claims a small portion of the overall wildlife damage compensation program,” it said.
“They create a host of problems wherever they arrive — the damaged crop, the damaged pasture land,” Premier Scott Moe said during the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) convention Wednesday, where he announced the new rules.
“And they all potentially could spread disease to some of the hog barns that we have operating in the province.”
Being listed as a pest means poison can be used to get rid of the pigs, but it should be done cautiously, warns Ryan Brook, an associate professor in the University of Saskatchewan’s Agriculture and Bioresources Department with more than a decade of wild pig research under his belt.
Poison can affect “all these non-target species and have broad ecosystem impacts,” as well as pose a public safety risk.
Brook called wild pigs potentially the worst invasive large mammal on the planet, and said the province’s overdue announcement to regulate farms and consider the pigs a pest is one of several tools it should use to control the population.
Brook said he wanted to hold most critiques or commendations of the new plan until he sees more details, but that he agrees with the moratorium on new farms because it “makes sense given the amount of escapes and number of purposeful releases,” he said.
“As long as they stay inside the fence, it’s a perfectly fine industry, it’s the animals getting out into the wild and becoming feral is where the real issue is here.”
He’s said he’s aware of hundreds of pigs being intentionally let out at once and said the escape rate is about two to three per cent.
That’s led to 80 per cent of the 296 rural municipalities in the province seeing at least one wild pig, he said.
His regulation recommendation was to require farms have good fencing, including high voltage fencing, and ear tags on animals. Brook also said it will help keep track of who is farming wild pigs because, without them, anyone could start a farm.
During the convention on Wednesday, SARM president Ray Orb said he was glad, but not surprised, to hear Premier Scott Moe’s boar announcement.
Orb has been calling on the province to put a moratorium on new farms since 2009, according to SARM.
In an email, SARM said that boars are “notoriously intelligent,” difficult to hunt and vectors of disease.
“2021’s disastrous drought year is still top of mind for our farmers. Now, crop and land destruction from wild boar is another critical concern,” it said.
The province also announced that the annual funding for the provincial crop insurance Feral Wild Boar Control program would double to $200,000 to further surveillance and eradication efforts.