Highly intelligent 'super pigs' are invading the U.S. from Canada — and 'they’re here to stay'
Funny pigs in sty leaning on wall (Shutterstock)

Highly intelligent "super pigs" are threatening disease and devastation in parts of the northern United States after wrecking portions of Canada.

The animals are the result of cross-breeding between domestic pigs and wild boars, which are responsible for a wide range of environmental damage, including eating crops, destroying trees and polluting water, and pigs have the potential to create a novel influenza virus that could spread to humans, reported The Guardian.

“Wild pigs are easily the worst invasive large mammal on the planet,” said Ryan Brook, head of the University of Saskatchewan’s Canadian wild pig research project

“They’re incredibly intelligent," Brook added. "They’re highly elusive, and also when there’s any pressure on them, especially if people start hunting them, they become almost completely nocturnal, and they become very elusive – hiding in heavy forest cover, and they disappear into wetlands and they can be very hard to locate.”

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The U.S. government estimates that around 6 million feral pigs cause $1.5 billion of damage each year in 34 states, and Americans pay thousands of dollars to gun down wild pigs, which can stand 3 feet tall and weigh between 75 to 250 pounds on average.

“They lived a benign existence up until, you know, probably three or four decades ago, where we started seeing these rapid excursions in areas we hadn’t seen before,” said Michael Marlow, assistant program manager for the Department of Agriculture’s national feral swine damage management program.

“Primarily that was the cause of intentional releases of swine by people who wanted to develop hunting populations," Marlow added. "They were drugged and moved around, not always legally, and dropped in areas to allow the populations to develop, and so that’s where we saw this rapid increase.”

Pigs were introduced to North America in 1539 by Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto, who brought 13 to Florida, and the "super pig" was created in the 1980s by farmers looking to produce more meat, but some of those giant pigs escaped captivity and managed to survive Canada's brutal cold due their enormous size and the ability to tunnel under the snow.

“All the experts said at that time: ‘Well, no worries -- if a wild pig or a wild boar ever escaped from a farm, there’s no way it would survive a western Canadian winter, it would just freeze to death,'" Brook said. “Well, it turns out that being big is a huge advantage to surviving in the cold.”

Brook said the animals are too well established in Canada to eradicate them, so his team focuses more on managing the damage they cause.

“They’ve definitely moved in," Brook said, "and they’re here to stay.”

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