BILLINGS, Mont. -- Feral pigs could be moving south from Canada toward the Montana border, and boy do these wild hogs cause some major problems. The Northern Hotel in Billings hosted a Feral Swine Coordination Summit on November 15, 2019 to learn more about the issue.
Dr. Ryan Brooks, an Associate Professor at the University of Saskatchewan studies the reproductive ecology of wild pigs. Native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa, these feral swine have been purposely spread around the world, and Brooks says it has become an emerging crisis in Canada. He says the wild hogs currently occupy half a million square miles, and they are moving south towards the Montana border.
"Montana right now does not have invasive pigs and they certainly don't want them. Nobody wants them. They're an absolute menace. They destroy habitat, they eat wildlife, they are dangerous to people, they could spread disease to livestock, people, pets," says Brooks.
Brooks says these vicious creatures have razor sharp tusks, and the largest one he's encountered weighed 638 pounds. Once they've been established in an area, Brooks says feral pigs are extremely difficult and expensive to eliminate.
"I've compared it often to a wildfire. If you see a small fire and you get on it, it takes relatively little effort, relatively little cost, and then you prevent it. If you leave that fire and it gets out of control then it costs millions of dollars and often becomes completely out of control and physically can't be stopped," he continues.
Brooks says feral pigs can burrow deep into the snow and survive freezing temperatures.
"Montana has a lot of very, very good wild pig habitat and as I was driving through the state coming here from Canada, I cringed many times thinking, 'boy, if pigs got in there they could be firmly established and really,really hard to get rid of so that's the reality."
Bob Brickley, member of the Moose Mountain Wild Boar Eradication Team, also spoke at the convention. He says hunting feral swine can be problematic because killing the strays will leave the strong to survive and reproduce, possibly making feral swine even more vicious as a species. That's why it's best to eradicate them in groups.
Brooks says the state of Montana is very on top of this issue, but if you do see a wild pig, you are asked to contact officials at Squeal on Pigs immediately. Their number is (406) 444-2976.