Feral pigs cause significant economic losses to agriculture by damaging crops, pastures, water holes, fencing and by killing lambs and sheep.
What is a feral pig?
A feral pig can be defined by establishing any or all of the following:
- the pig was born or has lived in the wild
- the pig demonstrates wild and erratic behaviour
- the pig is not domesticated
- the pig has some or all of the following morphological features - long course hair, elongated snout, sloping hindquarters.
There are a number of methods available for the control of feral pigs including, 1080 baiting, trapping, exclusion fencing, aerial and ground shooting. As with any pest control program, a single control method used in isolation may provide limited local control of pig populations; however a coordinated program involving neighbours and utilising multiple control methods will prove more successful over a broader area.
For detailed information on feral pig control methods please speak with your local biosecurity officer or consult the feral pig section of the DPI website (opens in new window).
Fines for transporting or releasing feral pigs
Strict laws are in place to deter people from transporting and releasing live feral pigs. These fines include:
- up to $22,000 for transporting live feral pigs
- up to $5,500 for liberating feral pigs (or any pest animal)
- up to $2,200 for having a live feral pig (or any live pest animal) in your possession.
Authorised officers continually monitor for these illegal practices.
Feral pigs in the South East
Sus scrofa or feral pigs are an intelligent, adaptable vertebrate pest that can be found in varying densities across the South East region; and with the improving conditions being experienced at present their numbers could be set to increase this spring.
Feral pigs' destructive feeding habits can cause extensive environmental and agricultural damage, their powerful necks and snouts allow them to quickly turn over large areas of pasture in search of food, which can lead to pasture loss and erosion. Perhaps a greater threat is their potential to host a number of exotic diseases such as Foot and Mouth and African swine fever. It is estimated feral pigs cost the agricultural industry $100 million annually.
Being opportunistic omnivores, feral pigs will feed on a variety of food sources including green vegetation, roots, grains, fruits, reptiles, amphibians and lambs. This broad palette means that they can live in a variety of habitats, ranging from the alpine mountains and plains of the Monaro to the undulating Tablelands grazing country and along the coastal escarpment of the South Coast.
Feral pigs can be prolific breeders; their reproduction cycle is strongly linked to the availability and quality of food. Under ideal conditions, with abundant high protein food available, (i.e. conditions being experienced at present) sows can potentially have up to 2 litters per year, with an average litter size of six.
Recognising feral pig presence on your property
Generally feral pig presence isn't difficult to discern if populations are high. You'll quickly notice areas of overturned soil and you'll often spot them moving around at dawn and dusk. However when populations are low, it can be difficult to notice the signs of occupation, particular in areas of establishing feral pig populations, where landholders are not used to or are not looking for pig sign. In these areas, timely identification of feral pig presence can be critical in reducing their ability to gain a "hoofhold" in new areas.
Feral pigs use their snouts to dig for underground food, particularly in moist soil or after rain. The results can be individual plants being overturned, to large areas resembling ploughed paddocks.
Feral pig tracks (centre) have a distinct rounded edge, but can be easily confused with deer (left) and sheep (right) if the outline is blurred.
Wallows are distinctive oval depressions that pigs create in moist or wet areas often on the edge of waterholes. Pigs mainly wallow in the summer months when temperatures are higher to help regulate body heat. Wallows are excellent indicators on how recent pig activity is.
After wallowing, pigs often rub their head and shoulders on nearby trees and fence posts. This leaves a distinct muddy smear to the height of the animal.
Feral pig scats vary in size, shape and consistency with age and diet, but typically are 3 to 6cm wide, 7 to 22cm long and well formed. On closer examination it may contain finely chewed plant matter, bone fragments, wool, and kangaroo and wallaby hair.
Coordination the key to success
An ongoing control program in the Towamba/Rocky Hall catchment has proven successful in reducing feral pig impacts over the last two years. This program is a coordinated effort between local landholders, Towamba Landcare, National Parks & Wildlife Service and the South East LLS.
The program involves trapping and baiting activities across approximately 20 000 hectares of private and public land, with 96 pigs trapped to date and an indeterminable amount baited. Coordinating control activities and information sharing amongst stakeholders have been critical factors in the success of the program so far.
If you would like more information on identifying and controlling feral pigs or assistance in coordinating a feral pig program in your area, please contact your nearest South East Local Land Service office.