A horde of wild pigs that are known to eat deer have somehow invaded a fully fenced national park, leading experts to dub them ‘the most invasive animals on earth’.
The beasts have been spotted at Elk Island National Park in Alberta, Canada, and munch on tree roots and birds in addition to the park’s resident deer.
They’ve been a recurring problem since they escaped from farms in the area in the 1990s, so much so that the Alberta government has a wild pig removal program.
Perry Abramenko, who runs the removal squad, said that reports of the pigs are “increasing every year” and that they are unsure whether there’s “hundreds or thousands” of them.
He added that they have now invaded 28 different counties in Alberta.
“They’re a real challenge to capture. They’re very suspicious,” he said.
“As soon as there’s any kind of hunting disturbance, they scatter. They infest new areas. They become nocturnal. They become real wary of humans, and any trapping efforts we put forward are diminished.”
To make things even harder, the capturing process can take weeks of setting up remote cameras and bait after a sighting is reported.
Janelle Verbruggen, a spokesperson for Parks Canada, said that there is at least one sounder (a sow and piglets) confirmed by sightings in the park right now.
She added: “The physical evidence of rooting and public sightings suggest there may also be a second sounder.”
Parks Canada has now turned to the Alberta government for help.
The piggie pests are actually a hybrid species, a mix between normal farm pigs and European wild boars, and can reach well over 150kgs. Since their escape 30 years ago they have managed to spread across an 800,000 square km range.
Ryan Brook, from the Canadian Wild Pig Research Project based at the University of Saskatchewan, said they are “the single most successful invasive large mammal on the planet”.
He explained: “They wallow in wetlands and tear them up to make their nests.
“They contaminate water with mud and pathogens, they destroy crops, they are a public safety hazard and they can transmit disease to humans, pets, livestock and wildlife.”
Despite its fence, Elk Island is the only national park to have been afflicted by the pig pandemic. Brook, however, said this won’t last long, explaining that Prince Albert National Park will probably be next.
He said: “If there are no established wild pigs [there yet], there will be very soon.”
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