Wild boar may be on the loose again in Red Deer County just as the province has announced new trapping and bounty programs.
County agricultural services manager Cody McIntosh said he took a phone call from a county resident on Tuesday who had heard from another that there may be wild boar rooting around again. At this point, the sighting remains unconfirmed and the county is investigating.
Coincidentally, the call came only hours after Alberta Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development Minister Nate Horner announced an expanded trapping and control program for wild boar. In announcing the program, Horner said there have been sightings in 28 counties.
“Wild boar at large are a threat to our animals and environment, as well as a vector for diseases like African swine fever,” said the minister in a statement. “We are taking action to get rid of this menace and help those affected by it before it gets worse.”
Besides the damage boar can do to property and crops, the aggressive animals endanger livestock and people.
The new program involves more surveillance in several counties and more wild boar traps. A one-year pilot bounty program for hunters and trappers has also been rolled out.
As well, the government has added wild boar damage to the Wildlife Damage Conservation Program administered by the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation.
McIntosh said the county has not had any boar problems since 2008 when about 20 were eventually tracked down and killed near Raven, west of Spruce View in the southwest part of the county. It is believed they escaped from a wild boar ranch in a neighbouring county.
“We haven’t had any confirmed sightings in 14 years,” he said.
A few times people have called in about wild boars. The county investigated every time and it turned out they were domestic pigs that had escaped from area farms or properties.
“We’ve had one-offs, but they have never come back as wild boar. This is possible, but we’ll investigate. It’s possible but it may be a few domestic pigs that got too.”
The latest sighting, which was in the C&E Trail area towards Innisfail. McIntosh plans to talk to landowners and put out word on social media for people to be on the lookout for the boar.
A one-year pilot bounty program for hunters and trappers has also been rolled out that will run until the end of March 2023. Government-approved trappers will get $75 per set of ears for each sounder. Sounders are a herd of feral boar that usually included one or more adult sows along with one or more generations of younger animals.
Hunters can also get $75 per set of ears.
It is up to municipalities to sign on to the program. The County of Stettler has already signed up and the issue is expected to come up before Red Deer County council for a decision in coming weeks.
In the past, Red Deer County has actively lobbied the province to take steps to trap wild boar, which are considered a pest.
A map on the province’s Alberta Agriculture website shows the counties where wild boar have been spotted as of January 2021. It includes Red Deer County, Clearwater County and Wetaskiwin County in central Alberta, however, most of the sightings are in counties north of Edmonton.