About 30 years ago, Canadian farmers released hogs into the wild as the meat market slowed. These pigs have since grown gigantic and are ravaging farmland across the continent.
When Canadian farmers imported wild boars from Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the goal was purely to raise meat.
Even though some of them escaped and others were freed once the meat market slowed, none of the farmers thought these animals would survive the harsh Canadian winters.
According to National Geographic, however, that was a mistake with hefty consequences, as descendants of those boars have since bred with domestic pigs — and are now wreaking environmental havoc on the country’s crops, wildlife, and grasslands.
Though unruly pigs might seem like a minor issue with a cartoonish level of threat, these feral hogs weigh up to 600 pounds and sport some seriously sharp tusks.
The wild and domestic traits they’ve inherited gave them both a tolerance for extreme cold and the ability to birth large litters.
They’ve even begun to build shelters above ground, since dubbed “pigloos” by experts. As such, wildlife researcher with the University of Saskatchewan Ryan Brook has decided to aptly dub this generation as “super pigs.”
“We should be worried, because we know the biology,” said Brook. “They’re called an ecological train wreck for a reason.”
This generation of hogs has been spotted from British Columbia and Manitoba. When they’re not harassing the regional livestock, they’re freely eating whatever they can get their tusks on. They’re also reproducing at an alarming rate.
Doctoral candidate at the University of Saskatchewan Ruth Aschim says, “no one even knew where they were” until the last few years. Aschim and Brook, who serves as her adviser, spent three years mapping their spread using trail cameras, GPS collars, and interviewing local farmers and hunters.
Aschim practically lived out of her car for months, all the while meeting with biologists and conservation officers across Canada. Her findings, published in the Scientific Reports journal in May 2019, clarified the gravity of the issue for the first time.
The data generally showed that these hogs have covered tremendous ground in the last 30 years. They’ve even begun encroaching into new and unexpected territory, remarkably far away from where they were raised. All the while, they’re rummaging through private property.
“The rooting is really something to see,” said Alberta Agriculture and Forestry inspector Perry Abramenko. “It’s almost like a small backhoe has gone through some of these pastures.”