By Kristy Gregory, Landcare SJ Project Management Officer .
Landholders in Keysbrook have declared war on feral pigs over spring and summer, with a family group of 1 boar, 3 sows and 21 piglets successfully caught in November 2018. Since then, another group has been trapped, thanks to neighbours pooling their skills and knowledge, and utilising the expertise of others.
It began with a chance meeting in February 2018 with Andrew Lockey from WA Feral Animal Management, who was contracted by the Peel-Harvey Catchment Council to trap pigs. He was willing to share his knowledge to owners of neighbouring properties in Keysbrook.
Andy’s method was to get to know the tracks and camps of the pigs, by installing a network of motion activated cameras. A ‘free feed’ station was set up at an identified camp, along with more cameras. This gathered data about pig numbers, feeding times, and identified individuals and family groups.
Mesh panels that would make up the trap were installed gradually so as not to alarm the pigs, until it was fully constructed, including a remotely activated gate. The trap itself was linked to a live stream camera, which allowed it to be viewed in real time on a phone or computer, and the gate could be closed remotely once all the pigs were inside the trap.[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] A few escapees can result in a new family group, with 2.5 litters per year and 10 piglets per litter![/perfectpullquote]
Funding from the Landcare SJ through the State NRM Program Community Grants allowed the group of landholders to build their own trap and apply Andy’s methodology to continue the program, with the addition of a drone to follow trails through inaccessible areas. As a result, another group of 25 pigs were trapped and culled.
One of the landholders in Keysbrook believes that the problem of feral pig mobs is proliferated by the illegal hunting of them. “There are social issues of hunters cutting fences, trespassing on private property and behaving threateningly towards farmers.
There are also cruelty issues around the disposal of feral animals, if wounded pigs are dying in pain, and hunting dogs can be gored by the bigger boars. This trapping method is a humane way of controlling the feral pig population, as there are no injured animals or members of a group left behind”.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Feral pigs have a large impact on the natural and agricultural environment. [/perfectpullquote]
There is physical damage to crops, and predation on lambs and calves. Pigs do a lot of digging, which degrades bushland and spreads weeds and disease, including Phytophthora dieback. Pigs can also carry diseases that affect domestic animals and humans.
Although a significant impact on the local pig population, the recent efforts in Keysbrook represents 1 out 1,000,000 of the total feral pig population, which is estimated at 25,000,000 Australia wide.