Invasive wild pigs and the potential spread of infectious diseases across Alberta: getting prepared for a game-changer

Project Details

Status: Active
Investment: $423,041
Commodity: Multiple Livestock, Pork
Organization: University of Calgary
Investigator: Mathieu Pruvot

Wild pigs are susceptible to 39 of 84 OIE-listed terrestrial pathogens, of which 34 can infect at least one other species (including cattle, pigs, and/or humans).

Why is this research important for Alberta ag?

Since their initial introduction in Canada in the 1980s and 90s, wild pigs have rapidly spread through the Canadian prairie provinces, disrupting an increasing number of ecosystems. In addition to significant costs of damage, population control, and livestock depredation, wild pig populations may greatly compromise biosecurity for domestic pig and cattle populations.

Wild pigs are susceptible to 39 of 84 OIE-listed terrestrial pathogens, of which 34 can infect at least one other species (including cattle, pigs, and/or humans). These pathogens notably include federally reportable diseases, as well as pathogens of concern to public health or to the pork industry.

There is clear evidence for the role of wild boar in the spread and maintenance of African Swine Flu (ASF) in eastern Europe and in Asia. The spread of wild pigs across Canada is profoundly changing the hose community structure and could trigger significant changes in these epidemiological systems. The spread of reportable diseases by wild pigs would have devastating consequences for beef and cattle and pork production through direct effects of these diseases, impacts of control measures, and through economic consequences of internal trade restrictions.

This project aims to understand the effect of growing and expanding wild pig populations on the biosecurity of livestock production, and on the risk of disease spread and transmission. This information is critical for preparedness of the beef and pork industries for emerging diseases.

What benefits can producers expect from this research?

This research will support preparedness by better understanding risk distribution across the province through large scale risk mapping. This project will build a solid foundation to understand the biosecurity threats posed by wild pigs and anticipate mitigation strategies. Understanding the spread of wild pigs on rangeland and their impact on biosecurity is essential to the sustainability of livestock production in the province. This project strongly supports Alberta Pork in their effort to better understand the significance of wild pigs for disease risk for hog producers.

How will these research findings reach producers on-farm?

Findings will be shared with industry stakeholders, beef cattle and pork producers, and producer groups. These findings will be communicated in scientific journals and industry magazines. Social media will also be used to share results.

Funded in part by the Government of Canada under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.