Nov 23, 2023 - World

"Super pigs" in Canada threaten to spread across border into U.S.

Feral pigs, like these shown in 1999 in Stephensville, Texas, are becoming a nuisance across the country causing damage to crops and parks forcing authorities to find ways of eradicating the threat.

Feral pigs, like these shown in Stephensville, Texas, can cause damage to crops and parks. Photo: Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

A swelling population of feral "super pigs" in Canada is threatening to spread across the border into northern U.S. states, wildlife experts warn.

Threat level: States including Minnesota and Montana are taking preventative measures in case this crossbreed of wild boar and domestic swine that University of Saskatchewan professor Ryan Brook calls "the most invasive animal on the planet" crosses the border, per AP.

  • The hogs' population has exploded in size in the Canadian prairies as they pose a threat to native wildlife. A 2019 University of Saskatchewan study found the animals' population had increased by 9% per year across the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
  • "Wild pigs are ecological train wrecks," per a statement from researcher Ruth Aschim, who led the study. They are "prolific breeders" that "can cause soil erosion, degrade water quality, destroy crops, and prey on small mammals, amphibians and birds," Aschim said.

Of note: The U.S. is already grappling with a feral swine problem. Some 9 million hogs that can carry parasites and diseases such as African swine fever have been reported in at least 35 states.

  • These animals that were introduced to the U.S. in the 1500s cause an estimated $2.5 billion in damage to American agriculture every year, according to the Department of Agriculture.
  • Texas has received the most feral hog reports this year (2,425), followed by Georgia (1,377), according to the University of Georgia's Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health.

State of play: The hybrid pigs in Canada evolved after wild boar were introduced to the country over 30 years ago to diversify livestock production, while others "were imported as 'penned game' for shooting," according to the University of Saskatchewan.

  • Brook told AP the animals' population would still increase even if 65% of these animals were culled because the sows can quickly reproduce and hunters' success rate was only 2%-3%.
  • Officials in Minnesota are conducting a "proactive review" in response to issues including "recent reports of feral pigs near the U.S.-Canada border," according to the state's Department of Natural Resources.
  • The Montana Department of Livestock and the state Invasive Species Council have launched a "squeal on pigs" campaign that urges anyone who's seen a potentially feral swine to alert them in an effort to prevent any hog problems.
  • It's part of a North American partnership with the Canadian Council on Invasive Species.
Go deeper