>> BY Peter Worden
Feral pigs. Swine. Hogs. Wild boars. Razorbacks. Pineywoods rooter. Many different pig faces. One big pig problem.
As you read this right now, small populations of renegade pigs north of Vernon and around the Cariboos are really enjoying themselves. They’ve freed themselves from the tyranny of farm life (or more likely, been set free). They are now roving the wilds of B.C., out-eating everything in the natural ecosystem, rooting up plant life and chomping down on native animals. How can such a little oinker be such a big problem, you ask? Like many invasive species they are prolific. Pigs can have 10 piglets at a time, twice a season. They vary in how they look as they revert back to their wild, shaggy origins. It may look like the cute pigglywiggly from Babe or more like the monster in Lord of the Flies.
SPEAKING OF MONSTERS
Bullfrogs. The American Bullfrog is another destructive (and potentially delicious) invasive species on CSISS’ Most Wanted List.
As Sue Davies from the Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society explains, during the Second World War there was a shortage of protein in North America, so people raised animals they could eat. “When the war ended, the market for the bullfrog—frog legs—went away and farmers basically let these frogs loose.”
The nearest known population is in the Kootenays, however, CSISS is on high alert and hopes people are on the lookout—or listen out—for the bullfrog’s signature call. June and July is its mating season and the frogs can lay 20,000 eggs per year. Adults can grow as big as a small cat (about 20 cm from nose to tail, not including the legs). They’re significant predators; they inhale the local flora and fauna, even eating ducklings and gardersnakes. “They will make any wetland less biodiverse,” says Sue.
THE HUNTER BECOMES THE HUNTED
The B.C government has officially opened season on pigs to help keep populations down. You can do your part in the War On Invasive Species, too. “There are some things in your garden you can totally eat,” says Sue. “There are some weeds I would encourage you to eat. There are some I would not encourage you to eat because the risk of spreading them, harvesting them or consuming parts of them, is so huge…We want to make sure that first of all we don’t add to the problem.” Can we eat frogs? “If you did find one in a pond I would encourage you to try eating it if you like. Not sure that I would.”™