Imported in the early 1990s, along with other exotic livestock like ostrich and alpaca, wild boars were supposed to help diversify Alberta’s energy-heavy economy. Instead, they escaped into the wilderness and began humping madly. Boar numbers in the Alberta wild are now estimated at between 1,000 and 1,500, to the chagrin of farmers who find them greedy for their crops and prone to untidiness. In response, Alberta has declared stray boars persona non grata under the Agricultural Pests Act and, last month, put a bounty on their heads: $50 to anyone who proves a kill by presenting administrators in participating areas with a pair of boar ears.
Alberta is already very much pro-vermin control. It boasts a Hunting Day (Sept. 22), and a government-run “rat patrol” has policed the Saskatchewan border since 1950 to keep it rat-free. In Lac Ste. Anne County, 120 km northwest of Edmonton, a pilot project running since 2003 has already brought in 337 pairs of ears (they are kept in a fridge prior to disposal).
For weeks, Geoff Thompson, a county agricultural field man, has been inundated with calls from hunting enthusiasts ecstatic with news of the bounty. “Everybody makes it sound like there’s wild boars running around everywhere,” he says. “That’s certainly not the case.” Mainly because the cull is already pushing the pigs deeper into the wild.
Nocturnal, clever and frequently shy, boars can weigh as much as 200 kg, yet are spry enough to vanish unseen into the brush.Earl Hagman, who offers boar hunts at his Mayerthorpe, Alta., Hog Wild Specialties outfit, as well as selling the meat (“pork like grandpa used to raise”), says boar is unlike any game in Alberta. “The hunter goes after the boar and—sometimes—the boar goes after the hunter.” Which makes one wonder—what’s the bounty on Albertans in the boar world?