Why wild pigs should NOT be hunted in Ontario

by Dr. Keith Munro | November 15, 2021
wee wild hoglet standing in leaves

Editor’s note: As of Jan. 1, 2022, hunting wild pigs in Ontario will be illegal.

One key preventative measure will raise a lot of eyebrows among OOD readers: prohibiting the hunting of wild pigs. This move might seem counterintuitive, but it’s an important step in the effort to tackle this threat.

Hard on wildlife

Wild pigs are hard on native wildlife through competition (they eat the same things as native species), predation (they eat native species), and disease (they carry diseases that can affect native wildlife, livestock, and humans). While wild pigs might not wipe out Ontario’s native species (many states have large numbers of wild pigs and white-tailed deer), they would be an additional stressor on top of existing challenges.

Ontario’s deer face harsher winters than their southern relatives and they would additionally have to deal with wild pigs. Wild pigs are particularly tough on ground nesting birds, which in Ontario would include wild turkey, ruffed grouse, and spruce grouse. Wild pigs are an amphibious threat. Pigs don’t sweat and require water to cool off. This can lead to them destroying water quality and fish habitat through sedimentation, eating aquatic vegetation, and shedding of pathogens through feces.

Allowing such an invasive species to take root would be counter to the OFAH’s mandate to support fish and wildlife conservation and time-honoured traditions of fishing and hunting.

Ontario has advantages

When addressing the threat of wild pigs, Ontario has two advantages. First, the pigs we have appear to be recent farm escapes or pets. We’re not seeing larger groups of mixed ages, known as sounders, that would indicate they are reproducing in the wild. Second, we’re able draw on decades of management experience, especially from the United States. That experience has shown us what works and, just as importantly, what doesn’t.

Since 2019, the OFAH has been pushing the Ontario government to put this management experience into practice. Early government action included the launch of the Wild Pig Detectability Pilot Study, which uses trail cameras and traps to investigate sightings and remove wild pigs. In 2021, the government consulted on a Strategy to Address the Threat of Invasive Wild Pigs.

You can find our in-depth response at www.ofah.org/wildpigs.

The Strategy presented key actions for keeping Ontario free of wild pigs, such as listing them under the Invasive Species Act, phasing out the practice of wild boar farming, removing wild pigs from the environment, ensuring coordination between government ministries, and prohibiting the hunting of wild pigs.

Hunting as management

Hunting is fundamental to the effective management of wildlife in Ontario. Deer are a prime example, with the government’s own policies stating that “harvest management strategies are the primary methods used to help achieve the desired range in abundance of deer.” Hunting generates revenue while providing important traditions, special experiences, healthy meat, and economic growth.

Unfortunately, management experience in other jurisdictions shows that hunting does not work to control or eradicate wild pigs and can make the situation much worse. This has more to do with the pigs themselves than with hunting as they reproduce faster than any other mammal their size. A wild pig population can double their numbers annually as females can mature as young as five months of age and have two large litters per year.

Studies from the US have shown that hunters need to kill at least 70% of a wild pig population each year just to keep it from growing, a number that is rarely if ever achieved. To effectively eradicate wild pigs, the whole sounder needs to be removed at once and trapping is the most effective method. Hunting typically kills some but not all of the sounder, scattering and educating the survivors, which makes trapping even harder.

Pigs on the wing

People have moved pigs to create new hunting opportunities, contributing to the spread. But it’s important to remember that the overwhelming majority of hunters are conservation-minded, law-abiding individuals and the actions of a few, who could also be landowners looking to charge pig hunters, do not reflect the attitudes of the entire hunting community. Nevertheless, genetic analysis and enforcement records in the United States have shown unequivocally that people have spread pigs and stating this fact is no more “anti-hunter” than condemning a poacher.

All together, these reasons build a solid case for prohibiting the hunting of wild pigs. However, this should not reflect poorly on Ontario’s hunters. The OFAH and the hunting community are the loudest voice calling for action on wild pigs and for the conservation of Ontario’s wildlife, fish, and native ecosystems. This needs to be clearly communicated so the broader public understands that Ontario’s hunters are not part of the problem but are in fact part of the solution, even if that doesn’t include pulling the trigger.

If you think you’ve seen a wild pig, take a photograph, mark your location, and contact the Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711 or info@invading-species.com.

Dr. Keith Munro is a Wildlife Biologist with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters in Peterborough. He can be reached at keith.munro@ofah.org.

Originally published in The (OFAH) Insider in the Fall 2021 edition of Ontario OUT of DOORS Magazine.

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  1. Jason-Michael Racine wrote: So by your accounts, we shouldn't kill invasive fish species for the same reason?
  2. Bob Daye wrote: The author is not a farmer trying to protect his land.
  3. Randy Linden wrote: Seems to me that the meat industry brought these pigs into our eco system with the blessing of the Fed's in the 80s. These same profit greedy bone heads are now whining about 1.5 billion loss by damages. Most of this reported loss is probably pork sales and not true damage from pig exploits. Agricultural industry must of been sure pigs never escape pens and the Fed's clearly had no plan or strategy if pigs did what pigs do, dig under fences. There here, they are going to stay. Control is now our only option. On the positive side, free pork for everyone. Smoke houses will be in my backyard alongside the garden and greenhouse I built. Hunting pigs will increase gun sales, blind sales, ammo sales and increase licence revenue. Did I say free bacon. Randy linden Fisherman, Hunter, conservationist Haliburton free
  4. Don Morris wrote: I decided not to hunt pigs here in B.C. due to the lack of information on the healthiness of the animals. They could very well carry trichinosis or other parasites. Local farmers complain about them as they do about deer, but very few will give hunters permission to hunt of their land.
  5. Robert C Page wrote: Empiracle evidence from several US states shows that trapping en masse and anti-hunting regulations have very dubious results. OFAH better hope the pro-trapping at all costs policy advocacy bears tangible results quickly. If this falls flat on it's face,any credibility they may have will disappear like a puff of campfire smoke.
  6. Cecil Avey wrote: I was wondering if there was any updates on the wild pigs in the Pickering area, that the MNR were trying to catch?
    • Meghan Sutherland wrote: Cecil, The sounder was trapped and dispatched: https://toronto.citynews.ca/2021/12/07/wild-boars-pigs-pickering-trapped/
  7. Al Morabito wrote: I don’t agree one but with Dr. Munro’s view espoused here. NOT HUNT THEM? When you have walked all day and not seen even a lousy Partridge, smoked or fire roasted pork seems a wonderfully tasty alternative!
  8. Ron wrote: I see that this article misses out on one very important fact. With the Turdeau anti gun culture there are in fact less hunters in Canada. I am one that has stopped hunting all together and got rid of my firearms in the process. I know that there are fewer Americans wanting to come up here hunting because of this. I have never seen the dollar amounts lost because of the anti hunting/gun groups activity. I am sure it is quite substantial. Twenty years ago or more ,it seemed that there was a hunter behind every tree. Now you dont see very many hunters at all. I did run into a couple from Windsor when I was fishing at one of my favorite lakes this fall. How much is being lost to the the anti,s
  9. Pete McNutt wrote: Interesting view to watch these pigs versus controlling the pigs - invasive species is an invasive species. In two years when there is a population growth, farmers are enraged due to crop loss, we will be past the point of control. Using the US model is not a model to follow - there they look to make it a business and most hunters don't keep the meat, but give it to the poor or food banks. I am hoping, the area's these are in, no child is hurt by an aggressive boar in the spring when they are out playing and the MNR says sorry - we are studying the problem. When hunting starts - include this on the small game license and don't make it a money grab unless you are going for records of the largest Pig and a prize is given like a free hat. Cheers
  10. Peter Wilkinson wrote: Wild Pig hunting would get as messed up as does the moose hunting ,I know hunters that have not drawn a tag in over 15 years, I did not draw in over 10 years, so I quit moose hunting. However a have heard of a single female Indegious person who drew 3 adult tags this year (2021). This makes me think that the government and so called experts have another agenda for wild pigs.