“Super Pigs” Invasion Threat: Northern U.S. States Brace for Canadian Feral Swine

Feral swine have been reported in at least 35 states, according to the USDA. The agency estimates the swine population in those states at approximately six million.

A rapidly growing population of feral “super pigs” in Canada is causing alarm as it threatens to invade the United States, particularly affecting northern states like Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana.

These “super pigs,” a robust crossbreed of wild Eurasian boar and domestic swine, are creating an ecological and agricultural crisis. Ryan Brook, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan and a leading authority on this issue, describes these feral swine as “the most invasive animal on the planet” and “an ecological train wreck.”

A Historical Mistake Unfolds

The root of the problem dates back to the 1980s when Canada promoted the rearing of wild boar among farmers. However, following a market collapse in 2001, many farmers released these animals into the wild, leading to an unforeseen ecological problem. These animals, adept at surviving the harsh Canadian winters, have since proliferated across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

Wild pigs, a destructive invasive species that has spread throughout the world and now threatens to move into some Canadian cities.

The “Super Pig” Threat

These animals are not only highly adaptable and intelligent but also pose a severe threat to both wildlife and agriculture. Their feeding habits, which include rooting for bugs and crops, result in significant land and crop damage. Furthermore, their capability to spread diseases like African swine fever to hog farms adds to the concern. A female pig’s high fertility rate, capable of producing up to two litters per year, each with about six piglets, exacerbates the issue.

“Hunting just makes the problem worse,” says Brook, pointing out the low success rate of 2-3% for hunters. In response, several states have banned hunting these pigs due to their increased wariness and nocturnal behaviors, making them harder to track and eradicate.

Economic and Human Threat

The economic impact of these wild pigs is substantial. In the U.S., they are responsible for approximately $2.5 billion in crop damages annually, primarily in southern states like Texas. There have also been instances of aggression towards humans, with a fatal attack reported in Texas in 2019.

In this June 17, 2014, file photo, a wildlife trapper, walks past damage from feral hogs that happened overnight while foraging near one of his traps in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

Combating the Invasion

While eradication is deemed no longer possible in regions like Manitoba and Saskatchewan, efforts are underway to control the spread. The University of Saskatchewan has documented over 62,000 wild pig sightings, and aerial surveys have spotted them near the Canada-North Dakota border.

Montana has taken significant measures, including banning the raising and transporting of wild pigs within the state. Innovative approaches, such as large ground traps (“BoarBuster”) and net guns from helicopters, are being considered. Additionally, crowdsourced tracking programs like “Squeal on Pigs” are gaining traction.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, through its National Feral Swine Management Program, has been providing funding and resources to affected states, focusing on eradication in areas with emerging populations.