Here in Ontario, Canada, farmers and naturalists are alarmed about the frequent sightings of wild pigs in the southern part of the province.
We’re being asked to report any sightings so the authorities can go after them quickly, since experience in the USA has shown that they must be eliminated immediately. So there were a lot of congratulations when one ‘sounder’ (a complete family or band) was captured east of Toronto.
The theory is that pigs destroy crops, and are environmentally destructive because they dig up wild plants and soil. Also, we hear over and over, they are dangerous.
Interestingly, one of the first things Ontario did is ban hunting of the pigs. Apparently there is evidence that pigs, which are highly intelligent, quickly become harder to catch after encountering hunters. The bands break up into smaller units that spread more easily.
Of course, hunting is predation, which is a part of nature that assists almost all spieces in remaining genetically healthy. So, yes, it’s good for the pigs.
Obviously, many hunters disagree with the ban. Not only are pigs a challenging new animal to hunt, but pork is a favourite meat, and wild meat tastes better. As for the failure of hunters elsewhere to hold down wild pig numbers, I would point out that hunting in most of North America is in decline. Fewer and fewer young people are taking it up. That’s why deer populations in many areas are out of control, which not only damages the environment, but is bad for the health of deer – diseases and parasites spread more easily in concentrated populations. There was a time when more extensive hunting depressed deer populations.
So I’m with those who want to hunt the pigs. They, the pigs, might help to bring hunting back.
By the way, yes, hunters are declining while ownership of guns is rising in America. Lets be clear about this – real hunters don’t hunt with assault rifles – in fact, I would expect that it’s illegal in almost every jurisdiction. Hunting and mass shootings of people do not have anything to do with one another.
Back to the pigs – another interesting thing is that domestic pigs adapt to the wild very well. Many of the wild animals are feral domestics, or crosses with wild boar.
But, yes, the established theory is that besides eating crops, pigs damage the environment by digging up wild plants. Never mind that the greatest tiller of the soil that way, by far, is us. We destroyed most of the North American prairie, no one else. The plowing of farm fields is directly responsible for most of the serious loss of topsoil North America experiences every year.
So today I was delighted to come upon the March 3/21 article in Science Daily – A Silver Swining: ‘Destructive’ pigs help build rainforests.
Dr Matthew Luskin, research ecologist/biologist at the University of Queensland, reports that his studies of wild pigs in Malaysia have found that where pigs are present (there are 11 species of wild pigs in South East Asia) the diversity of rain forests improves. He says this appears to be due to the pigs pulling up the new shoots of dominant trees for use in their nests, making room for the seeds of more rare species.
A couple of years ago I read an article by a UK ecologist in BBC Wildlife that said wild pigs in Europe appeared to improve biodiversity there, again because of their digging. Unfortunately I can’t locate his name today.
Personally, I welcome wild pigs to Ontario. They’re dangerous? Just when did we decide that there should be no natural dangers in our lives? If I see any of these pigs, I’ll just look the other way, and move off, as I do if I encounter a bear (keeping one eye on them of course). Even if I meet a group of them coming down the sidewalk of a busy main street, I’ll just wish them luck as they go by.