Alberta extends bounty on marauding wild boars

EDMONTON – Alberta has extended its bounty to keep marauding boars from running wild.

The province recently announced it will continue paying a $50 premium to hunters for each pair of wild boar ears they deliver through 2017.

The reward is offered as part of a program established in 2003 to eradicate the population of feral pigs, non-native animals as hearty as they are a nuisance.

“There are not too many benefits of them in the wild,� said Phil Merrill, a specialist in pest species for Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. “If they get into a farmer’s oat field, they root it up pretty badly.�

More than $40,000 has been paid out since 2008 for wild pigs’ ears through the initiative, a joint program between the department and municipal agricultural service boards. Thirty-one municipalities participate in the provincewide program.

“The goal of the program is to assure that the population doesn’t get out of control,� said Mike Long, communications director for Alberta Agriculture. “They cause damage to crops, can spread disease, and damage the ecosystem by competing with native species like moose, elk and deer.�

Merrill estimates the province is home to 1,000 wild boars, with the greatest numbers in Lac Ste. Anne County northwest of Edmonton. Originally brought to Alberta from Europe to hunt for sport, the animals escaped from game farms and thrived in the wild.

“They are extremely intelligent and very hardy,� Merrill said. “You wouldn’t think it, but cold weather doesn’t stop them.�

The province has worked to secure the properties of the small number of farmers that raise them, and is now trying to round up those that are still on the loose. Hunters who participate in the bounty program must abide by a set of guidelines, including obtaining permission from landowners before entering their property, dispatching the animals in a humane manner and providing evidence of the kill.

Although they are considered the most destructive invasive species in the U.S., wild boars have not caused similar havoc in Canada thanks to bounty programs such as the one in Alberta. In the U.S., they are estimated to cause $1.5 billion a year in agricultural and environmental damage by rooting up the ground so thoroughly that farmers’ fields have to be levelled before they can be planted again.

“The number of boars that hunters have taken has gone down a bit in recent years, and that tells us the population is not drastically increasing,� Merrill said. “We think the population is stable and falling, and we want to make sure it stays that way.�

mklinkenberg@edmontonjournal.com

Twitter@martykej

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WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT PIGS

“I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.� — George Bernard Shaw

“Never try to teach a pig to read. First, it’s impossible. Secondly, it annoys the hell out of the pig.� — Will Rogers

“I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us like equals.� — Winston Churchill

“I understand the inventor of the bagpipes was inspired when he saw a man carrying an indignant, asthmatic pig under his arm. Unfortunately, the man-made sound never equalled the purity of the sound achieved by the pig.� — Alfred Hitchcock.

“The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed.� — Martina Navratilova

“This fellow doesn’t know any more about politics than a pig on Sunday.� — Harry Truman about 1952 presidential hopeful Dwight D. Eisenhower

“That’ll do pig, that’ll do.� — Farmer Hoggett in the movie Babe

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