The Challenge of Invasives
Irecently sat in on a disturbing presentation by a PHD candidate from the University of Saskatchewan, Ruth Kost, on the increasing range of wild boar in Canada. For many, even the idea — wild boar in Canada?! — might be a shock. It was not so much of a surprise to some in Saskatchewan, however, as these fearsome creatures appeared in the province about a decade or two earlier and have been increasing in numbers ever since.
But what Kost showed that day demonstrated that the problem is only beginning. Among her initial slides was one showing the distribution of feral boar in the United States. It was mind-boggling. The incredibly wide (and everwidening) range of their geographic distribution throughout the U.S. and the sheer number of animals was almost beyond comprehension: six million feral swine across 35 states. The scale of the problem in the U.S. is massive and perhaps insurmountable. Her presentation then moved north, and it was nothing short of alarming. She showed slides describing the wild boar population in Saskatchewan 10 years ago. And then she showed statistics for 2016. They highlighted the rapidly accelerating growth of the population, already 10 times larger with no end in sight. And this is a nightmarish invasive species: voracious, vicious, incredibly prolific and highly adaptive, they wreak havoc, destroy habitat, threaten humans and spread disease. With their nasty tusks and razor-sharp teeth, they are not the kind of wildlife you want to meet while on a hike in the woods. Kost hinted too that eradication was no easy feat, and might not even be possible. They are a formidable and devious animal.
I was so stunned by her presentation that I immediately contacted Canadian Wildlife editor Matthew Church. The result is a chilling article by local writer Lowell Strauss, which begins on page 28. It is a cautionary tale, yet another example of the short-sighted introduction of a non-native species for profit, without any real thought to the larger consequences from the impact of the inevitable escapees. The cost of that mistake will be borne for generations, and it remains to be seen if the problem will ever be controlled, the invaders eradicated.
I draw your attention as well to writer Brian Banks’ thorough analysis of the state of moose in every region of Canada. Is there a more Canadian animal than the moose? It thrives in cool weather and enjoys winter, loves the woods and prefers the quiet life. Moose are not the most handsome or the most intimidating, neither the fastest nor the strongest. They are unique and, to many, so symbolic. The complex story of moose varies wildly from region to region: there’s a threat of disappearance in some regions and hyper-abundance in others. And there are so many factors at work that what is clear from our interviews with experts in every region is that there is much to be done. Scientists, conservationists, loggers, hunters, Indigenous communities — everyone — will have a role to play in keeping this iconic species secure.
These two articles together represent key functions of the Canadian Wildlife Federation. Through research, information sharing and individual action, together we can control, perhaps even eradicate, invasive species. By working together, we can help mitigate the effects of climate change. And in doing so, we will strive to understand and maintain our unique native species.