Manitoba Conservation shot four wild boar near Lake of the Prairies last week, the first euthanizing of such animals in Manitoba in more than five years. "This is something we weren't aware of," said Ken Rebizant, big-game manager in the wildlife branch of Conservation.
Conservation was doing an aerial survey for deer and elk as part of control efforts of chronic wasting disease, near Russell in western Manitoba. "When we first saw one of the wild boar from a helicopter, at first glance we thought it was a grey wolf," Rebizant said.
Wild boar burrow into the ground and then cover their lair with vegetation. Rebizant said the wild boar happened to pop out of its "nest" as the helicopter passed. That boar was on the east side of the lake. A herd of three wild boar, called a "sounder," was found on the west side.
The animals were shot from the helicopter.
Wild boar are known to exist in Manitoba but are believed to be contained to a few small pockets: in Duck Mountain, Turtle Mountain, Spruce Woods and in the Interlake near Ashern. Conservation efforts in the past to hunt the animals on the ground have not been successful. Neither do wild boar follow forest trails like other animals.
Wild boar can be ill-tempered and are not shy. The animals, weighing up to 200 kilograms, can become very aggressive, using their sharp tusks in attacks.
"They can do significant damage to people or to pets," especially if cornered, Rebizant said. Anyone encountering a wild boar should back away and call Conservation, he said.
Wild boar are also destructive of other wildlife and wildlife habitat and to crops. They are root-eaters and will make a mess of vegetative areas, digging up the ground "like a rototiller," said Ryan Brook, an assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan, who is researching wild porcine in Saskatchewan.
They eat ground nesting birds and the fawns of ungulates. They are also phenomenal reproducers, having two litters per year of four to six young each. They live up to 25 years. There is really no natural predator for the animals. They are a tremendous problem in Texas, where from two to three million feral boars roam. "We don't want wild boar out on the landscape," said Rebizant.
Wild boar sightings in Manitoba are way down from a decade ago, and other provinces have looked to Manitoba's control program. By comparison, wild boar are widespread across southern Saskatchewan, where there are more wild boar farms. Manitoba Agriculture considers wild boar a hobby animal, raised in small numbers for personal use.
The porcine near Lake of the Prairies are believed to have escaped from a wild boar farm, possibly in Saskatchewan. Boar travel up to 45 kilometres in a day.
Manitoba's policy makes it open season on wild boars year-round, whether you are a hunter or not, but you must have a landowner's permission if it's not Crown land. Every year, hunters shoot a few wild boar, Rebizant said. Alberta offers a bounty of $50 per boar.
Wild boar experts from across Canada met in Winnipeg last Wednesday but the workshop was closed to the media and even access to speakers during breaks was restricted.
Lucie Verdon, biosecurity co-ordinator for the Canadian Swine Health Board that sponsored the meeting, said there is concern about wild boar spreading disease. The workshop was also to find which control measures have worked and which have failed in various provinces, she said.