Massive, highly intelligent hybrid wild hogs — called “super pigs” — are running amok in the Canadian North, wreaking havoc and leaving massive destruction in their wake. Now, they’re threatening to invade the United States.
Americans love a good story about apocalyptic annihilation. It’s why Mad Max and Red Dawn hit so hard at the box office. But sometimes, truth is far stranger than fiction. Thought the end of the world as we know it would come via climate change, nuclear fallout, or World War III? Nope, it will probably be an invasion of massive Canadian smart pigs.
When you get down to brass tacks, the imminent threat is no laughing matter, no matter how many corny memes we can milk out of the impending apocalypse. As anyone in states hit hard by feral hogs knows, they can cause a horrifying amount of devastation, and these Canadian super pigs are reportedly much worse.
What Is a Canadian Super Pig?
Although it would have made a tremendous dystopian backstory, Canadian super pigs weren’t bioengineered in some Canuck lab — they actually have a relatively boring agricultural origin.
“The Canadian story started in the 1980s,” Ryan Brook, head of the Canadian Wild Pig Research Project, said in a public radio interview. “We have no native pigs in Canada of any kind, but there was a big push through the ’80s and ’90s in Canada to diversify agriculture. We had to get away from cows and wheat and ended up with emu ranches and elk farms.
“Wild boar were brought over from Europe to be raised and put on the tables of fancy restaurants across Canada.”
While wild boar makes for scrumptious fine-dining table fare, they aren’t as large and don’t breed as prolifically as the stereotypical pink porkers we all know and love. According to Brook, who is anecdotally known as the “Chairman of the Boar,” domestic barnyard pigs are larger and come with a bonus set of tasty ribs.
Farmers seeking longer, larger animals that reproduce faster than the average wild boar crossbred the wild boar with the more productive pink pigs traditionally raised for grocery-store pork.
“It worked great on the farm, except a lot of them escaped,” Brook explained. “To make matters worse, in 2001, the market peaked and then just collapsed. A lot of people cut the fences and let them go.”
Most domestic animals wouldn’t be able to survive a harsh Canadian winter, which tells you something about how hardy this hybrid pig species is.
“We literally get a week or more of 40-below weather with howling winds every year,” Brook said. “Well, they come from Siberia, and these animals are very, very well adapted and have an incredibly thick coat of hair and fur. That gives them a massive benefit to survive.”
Wild boars are native to Eurasia and traditionally range from northern Africa into Siberia, where winter temps are generally well below zero. Eurasian wild boar are no strangers to extreme cold.
Compared with the feral pigs already roaming the lower 48, Canadian super pigs are more closely related to European boar, with only splashes of pink porky ancestry. They retain much of the hardiness of their Eurasian forebears but with beefier bodies and larger litters.
“A 638-pound pig is going to do a lot better out in the cold than an 80-pound pig by a long shot,” Brook said.
Thermal efficiency is the reason everything is bigger up North. Large mammals have a lower surface area-to-volume ratio, which helps reduce heat loss. That’s why the largest bears, whales, and ungulates generally roam in more northern latitudes.
Super Pigs: Architecture and Behavior
Canadian super pigs also seem highly intelligent and have adapted to their more frigid living conditions by developing their building skills. In an ironic “Three Little Pigs” twist, super pigs are constructing “pigloos.”
Believe it or not, “pigloo” is the scientific term for the icy snow tunnels that feral swine use as hideaways. These hog-made structures can have roofs made of snow that’s 2 feet thick, which helps keep the pigs inside warm and toasty. They are also far more wolf-proof than houses made of sticks and straw, although super pigs build those, too.
In less snowy conditions, Canadian wild swine cut down cattails, pile them into mounds, and burrow inside. Thick, soft cattail houses capture enough heat to steam on frosty days. The cattail structures also catch snow, adding an extra layer of insulation and allowing the super pigs to thrive in extremely harsh environments.
The Problem With Pigs in North America
After living through a global pandemic, Chinese spy balloons, and season seven of The Walking Dead, it’s admittedly hard to take the apocalyptic potential of Canadian super pigs seriously. However, Brook believes this isn’t a threat to be taken lightly.
“These pigs are easily the worst invasive large mammal on the planet,” Brook told Fox News. “They cause crop damage, destroy natural environments, get into cities, destroy water quality, and can spread disease to humans, livestock, pets, and native wildlife.
“The only people who should be worried about this is anyone that lives in North America and eats meat, or eats vegetables, or eats any foods based on grain crops, or spends time outside for any reason.”
So, basically, everyone.
Is Hog Hunting the Answer to Super Pigs?
Many areas of the U.S. are already dealing with their own problematic pig populations. A USDA study tallied feral swine wreckage at $1.5 billion each year.
Many states have responded to the heightening hog headache by implementing open hunting seasons on feral hogs. Hunters can pop pigs year-round in Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.
However, Brook isn’t convinced that traditional hunting methods alone can stem the swelling tide of feral swine.
“Large traps and tracking Judas pigs, ground removal teams, fencing, and education are all key,” Brook said.
What’s a Judas pig? It’s a wild hog that betrays his brothers with a GPS collar rather than a kiss, leading removal efforts right into their midst.
“A rapid and highly aggressive response, just like dealing with cancer or forest fires — that is really the only option,” Brook explained. Once they are established, you will have them for another 500 years.”
While 500 years of hunting opportunities might sound like sweet music to hog hunters’ ears, the chance isn’t worth the danger that this highly invasive species poses to crops, wildlife, waterways, and the general landscape of the country. If we could turn the Canadian super pigs away at the border, that would be the best option.
“I was warned by someone in Texas, ‘Stop whatever you are doing and start removing pigs, and don’t stop until every single one is gone,’” Brook said. “I would echo that advice.”