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That’s a lot of pork on the lam

Thousands of pounds of pork are roaming across the Prairie provinces. It is free for the taking in Alberta and Manitoba although it is not that easy to take. In fact, there are so many wild boars, on the loose, in Alberta, the government has declared them an official pest and is ordering landowners to eradicate the animals.

A regulation, that went into effect earlier this year, requires landowners to report non-captive wild boars to the province and then eradicate them. If a landowner does not take action, municipalities have the power to go in and do the job and charge the landowner a fee for the service.

Alberta farmers began importing wild boars in the early 1990s. The lean meat, which is high in protein, grew in popularity because of its sweet, nutty flavour. Wild boar producers still operate with the province.

Problems began when some wild boars escaped captivity. At first, experts believed the animals would be unable to survive the harsh winters.

The European wild boars, which can weigh up to 275 kilograms, have adapted to frigid winters, breed like rabbits, dig up farm fields like giant gophers and have chased school children at bus stops, says Cliff Munroe, director of regulatory services for Alberta Agriculture.

The pigs are so destructive that the province has put non-captive wild boars in the same official pest category as rats.

During the past few years, hundreds of wild boars have escaped from pens where they were being raised on ranches in western Canada. The pigs migrate and can spread disease to domesticated pigs.

It is estimated that more than 1,500 of the dark-haired beasts are at large around rural areas from Lac la Biche in north-central Alberta all the way south to Medicine Hat. The eliminate or at least reduce wild boar numbers in the Lac Ste. Anne area northwest of Edmonton, the county paid a $50 bounty for each animal killed.

Wild boars have also become problem in Manitoba where licensed gun owners are permitted to shoot any animals roaming at large. The animals, which mainly travel at night, are not easy targets.

Manitoba experts estimate three per cent of the province’s 3,000 captive wild boars get away annually — adding up to 90 new escapees every year. Wild boar sows can have two litters of up to 13 young each year. That’s a lot of pork chops on the lam!

Georgina Campbell is a freelance writer living at Lamont, Alberta.

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