Integrated feral pig control
In Victoria, feral or wild populations of pigs (Sus scrofa) are declared as established pest animals under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 (CaLP Act). Under the Act, all landowners have a responsibility to prevent the spread of, and as far as possible eradicate, established pest animals from their land.
Feral pigs have been present in Australia since early European settlement. Their populations were originally concentrated around settlement areas, but they have since spread across 45 per cent of the Australian mainland and are found in all states and territories. Feral pigs are one of Australia’s worst pest animal species because they not only cause extensive damage to agriculture and the environment, but they can spread diseases that threaten human, wildlife and livestock health. Therefore, it is important to manage feral pig populations wherever they occur.
Established Invasive Animals Best Practice Management video series
1. Controlling feral pigs on your farm in Victoria
Hi, I'm Sam Armstrong and I'm the Victorian Feral Pig Coordinator at Agriculture Victoria. Feral pigs are becoming an increasing threat to biosecurity, agriculture production, and the natural environment within Victoria. This video gives an overview of the species and explores common control methods landholders can use to manage populations.
Feral pigs have been present in Australia since European settlement. They were initially concentrated near settlement areas but have since spread across 45% of the country. It's estimated that there is anywhere between 3.5 to 25.5 million feral pigs in Australia. Though their numbers vary with seasonal changes.
Feral pigs are smaller, leaner, and more muscular than domestic pigs, and they have coarse hair with a straight tail and a bushy tip. They can thrive in a range of environments because of their adaptive behaviour. Though their home range size varies according to resource availability. Sows become sexually mature at around six months of age and can produce two weaned litters of up to 12 piglets in a little over one year.
Feral pigs are opportunistic omnivores that eat many things, including small mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, fruits, seeds, roots, tubers, and foliage. They are also creatures of habit that often live in groups known as mobs. They can range from size from 10 to 50 animals. Feral pigs are relatively heat intolerant and they are highly dependent on water for drinking and wallowing. They also require shaded areas to rest in during the daytime.
Feral pigs cause extensive damage to agriculture and the environment in Victoria. It's estimated the cost to agriculture is more than a hundred million dollars per year loss to production. They are also a major threat to the survival of a number of native species and could spread exotic diseases such as foot and mouth disease and African swine fever in the event of an outbreak.
Identifying feral pig activity is the first step in managing feral pigs on your land. Signs of feral pigs include ground rooting, mud rubs, wallows, tracks, dung, fence crossings, and consumption of carcasses. Familiarise yourself with these signs and keep a lookout for when monitoring your property. Once you've confirmed feral pigs are active in your area, it's then important to develop a strategic plan to manage them.
Control options available for managing feral pigs include baiting, trapping, aerial shooting, ground shooting, and fencing. We'll cover some of these methods in more details in the other videos in this series.
Feral pigs are found in several areas across Victoria, so it's important that we all play our part in managing their populations. Keep a look out for signs of feral pigs on your property and when they are detected, control them with an integrated approach using a range of control options. Watch the other videos in this series. To find out more information, refer to the Agriculture Victoria website or get in touch with the Customer Service Centre. Thanks, and we hope you find these videos helpful.
Feral Pig biology and behaviour
Before designing your feral pig control program, it is important to understand feral pig behaviour and ecology. The following should be considered when designing your program:
- Feral pigs eat meat and vegetable material (they are 'omnivorous').
- Feral pigs are highly intelligent and capable of adapting their behaviours to live in a wide range of habitats.
- Feral pigs may change location and behaviour according to seasonal conditions.
- Feral pigs require a reliable and adequate supply of water, food and shelter.
- Breeding can occur throughout the year in good conditions.
- Sows can produce two weaned litters every 12 to 15 months, with an average of 6 piglets per litter.
- Feral pigs can travel long distances to find food or water or to escape hunting pressure.
See pig (feral or wild) for more information about their characteristics and behaviour.
Managing feral pigs on your property
Points to remember
- It is important to control feral pigs before they cause widespread damage.
- Be aware that native wildlife may also be using feral pig habitat, so ensure your feral pig control program doesn't affect them.
- If any feral pig control work is to be undertaken that may result in disturbance of native vegetation, culturally significant areas or waterways, contact the responsible authorities prior to works being conducted. The responsible authorities may include:
- Agriculture Victoria,
- Aboriginal Affairs Victoria or the local Registered Aboriginal Party,
- local government,
- Catchment Management Authority.
- If you are planning to use traps to control feral pigs – the trap specifications, trap checking times, provision of food, water and shade, and humane destruction of trapped feral pigs must be carried out in accordance with the requirements of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (POCTA) and associated regulations. Trapping has several animal welfare implications and anyone considering trapping should read Humane Vertebrate Pest Control.
- If you are planning to use dogs for feral pig control, be mindful that there are specific requirements for the use of dogs for hunting. Under Section 28 of the Domestic Animals Act 1994, a person must not set or urge a dog to attack, bite, rush at or chase any animal except when hunting in accordance with (POCTA)
- If you are planning to use chemicals to control feral pigs, ensure all requirements of the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act 1992 and Agriculture and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Regulations 2017 are met. This includes adhering to the directions for use on the chemical label, keeping the relevant chemical use records and only using 'restricted use chemicals' if you hold the required Agricultural Chemical User Permit or other relevant permit. Chemical use record sheets and further information regarding agricultural chemical use can be found on chemicals.
Planning your program
Good planning is essential for maximising the effectiveness of your feral pig control, while minimising impacts on to other animals. Consider pig density, distribution and habitat to determine what actions are most appropriate.
The best results are achieved when neighbours work together to control feral pigs across a landscape, rather than just on individual properties. Talk to your neighbours and your local Landcare group to work out a plan for coordinated action.
Identify feral pig feeding behaviour and activity areas on your property. Map these areas for future reference. Feral pigs are often found around:
- watering points
- swampy areas
- areas with vulnerable livestock, plantations, crops and thick vegetation.
Establish a benchmark of feral pig numbers and damage on your property. This will be used to measure the effectiveness of your control programs later.
Feral pigs can be monitored by measuring feral pig signs like tracks, ground rooting, wallows and dung. You can also use motion sensor cameras, bait-uptake, capture rate (during control) and ground-based or aerial counts. It is also important to consider the potential risks to non-target animals and record them on a map for later reference.
Use the information you have gained from monitoring to:
- target your control effort
- monitor the progress and success of your control program
- vary and improve your program.
It is important to continue to monitor feral pig numbers/damage after your control program has finished so you can treat any re-infestations.
Established Invasive Animals Best Practice Management video series
02. Monitoring pest animals in Victoria - make it part of your plan
Hi, I'm Jason Wishart. Biosecurity manager with the Established Invasive Animals Team at Agriculture Victoria. In this video, we're going to look at monitoring and why it should be included in your integrated pest management program. Monitoring is often overlooked in pest management programs because it's often seen as a waste of time and money, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Monitoring helps to measure pest damage and abundance, identify hotspots or high use areas in the landscape, confirm if non-target species are present, select the right control tools, ensure your program is having the intended impact, and it allows you to make changes to improve your program.
Two types of monitoring are used to monitor pest management programs, including performance monitoring and operations monitoring. Performance monitoring looks at the impact of your pest management program on the pest animals and their damage. While operations monitoring focuses on the efficiency of your program to ensure that the cost don't outweigh the benefits.
Monitoring can be time consuming, so it's important to be clear about what you want to monitor, when it should be monitored, and how often to confirm you are meeting the project objectives. A range of performance monitoring techniques can be used to monitor pest animals and their damage. They include camera trapping, spot lighting and thermal imagery, activity plots. And you may also record lambing rates or crop yields or look at the response of threatened species populations to your program. No matter what technique you choose, it must be undertaken consistently in terms of site, location, duration, equipment, and personnel. So the results are comparable. Now I'm going to briefly discuss each of the more common monitoring techniques used to measure performance.
In this part of the video, I'm going to run through some of the basics for using activity plots to monitor pest animal populations. So I've got one set out here. Essentially what you need to do is make sure that your plot covers the entire road so that the fox or wild dog can't step around your plot. They've got to actually walk through it. The other thing you need to do is make sure that the plot itself is wide enough, so they don't just jump over. It also needs to be at least a metre in width. And then also you need to set these up at a number of different locations along the property and quite clearly throughout the property so that you get a good representation of fox abundance. Because if you only do one or two plots, it's not really going to give you a good indication. So yeah, making sure that they're at regular intervals and there's enough to cover your property to get good numbers. And then the other thing that's important to do as well is to run it over several nights because on one night there might be a high level of activity that's unusual for some reason, or there might be low levels. So if you've done it over three nights, you can get that average and use that. And then after your control program, you can measure again and compare the same with the same. So it's got to be comparable, making sure that you've done everything in the same way and using the same number of nights and those sorts of things. So when you've set your plot, so this is when you've, you're just setting up, you've, you've created your plot. You make sure that the sand here is all nice and soft. So we've already pre-done one here, but what you can also use is a, is a bag of sand too. If the, if the roads are really hard or the surface that you're working on is really hard, then a, a fox print or a dog print, it won't show up. So you can add some sand to that mix or you can use your rake or a shovel and just really give it a roughing up. So it's nice and soft like you can see here. This is, is really sort of powdery now. So yeah, you set your plots up next morning, come back and have a look and, and record what you've found. And for most animal control programs, presence/absence is really all you need. So the number of plots with fox activity is sufficient. So that's, that's really basically what you have there for activity plot monitoring.
In this part of the video, I'm going to talk about how remote cameras can be used to monitor pest animal populations or even how they can be used to monitor control tools. Now there are a number of different cameras on the market. Some can take video and some can take still, it just depends on the situation and what you're hoping to achieve as to which one you might choose in those situations. There are also a number of different types of camera sets that you can use. So you can use a passive set, which essentially tries to capture the animal in the landscape doing its natural thing. So they're just passively moving through the landscape. And that's generally used to get a count on population. The other thing you can do is use an active set and that's where you'd use an actual lure to bring an animal to a particular area and count them that way. And sometimes that would even be considered, well, what you would use for doing baiting and, and things like that too. Okay, so once you've found the place that you'd like to actually place your camera in the landscape, the next thing you got to think about is probably the, the camera settings and the height of the camera and the distance from, from the actual target as well. So I've got a camera here. It's one of the ones where you use quite regularly. If you are most, most likely you, you're going to be monitoring things like pigs or foxes with, with remote cameras smaller animals often a little bit more difficult to detect. So it's really important that you have them at the, at the right height. So it's essentially a camera detects the heat in movement. So you want to be able to put the camera at the same height as the centre of mass. So with a pig, it's about sort of waist, waist height, a little bit lower than waist height. And you just put it into the post at about there. And you also want to put that camera facing at about 25 degrees to the trail that you think the animal be will be walking down. If you face it at right angles, the animal will be passed before the camera triggers and takes the photo. So it's really important that you sort of angle it along that trail and make sure it, it sort of captures images as the animal walks up and along and, and past. So a little bit different if you're going to be monitoring your bait station or something like that. If it's a bait station, same thing about the height. Really important to have the height right, but the distance from the bait station might be a bit different. So for pigs for example, you might put your camera about, say, five metres away because you want to maximise that field of view and make sure that you get all the animals in the shot. The other thing are the settings on the camera itself, when you're monitoring in the landscape and having animals pass through quickly, you might have your camera set really high sensitivity. So it takes a photo quite quickly and you might take a number of shots during each trigger as well. But one thing that's really important is that no matter what sort of setup and settings that you have, they remain the same for your entire monitoring program. Because if you change the settings, you might get a different detection rate or whatever and it might give you a false reading on population declines or increases. So make sure that that's exactly the same. So if you've set it one way before you're monitoring or before your control program, make sure that they're set the same way afterwards and that you use the same locations and that you monitor for the same length of time as well. So often it's a really good idea to not just to monitor for one night or two nights, but monitor for a length of time and get an average per night per camera. That way you're results will be a lot more accurate as well. And those declines will act be actual declines and not maybe a false reading. So once you've collected your data, the next thing you need to do is, is actually analyse it. And the best way to do that in most situations, particularly for the passive monitoring where you, where getting animals moving through the landscape is to look at the number of passes per animal, per camera, per night. And you average that out over the monitoring period. That's probably the most effective way for analysing camera data. There are other ways too but for monitoring, for a pest control program that's probably the best one to use. The other thing you could potentially do if you're actually looking at visitation rate towards a feral pig bait station, for example, you might then count the number of visits rather than passes. But no matter what it is, always use the same, always analyse it the same way. Consistency is really the key for monitoring so that you're actually comparing apples with apples.
In this part of the video, I'm going to go through some of the basics for spotlight monitoring, and that's really to get an idea of the pest abundance or pest activity on your land before you do control and after you do control. So there are a few things that you got to think about with spotlighting. One thing is probably the target animal. So spotlighting works really well, I guess for rabbits and foxes and to a lesser extent, feral pigs, their eye shine's not so great and you want to have transects predetermined transects as well that you'll monitor on a regular basis. So you'll use the same transect each time. So a transect really is just a path through your property and you want to make sure that that covers a good representation of what your property actually is. So if you've got a bit of bush land and a bit of open grassland and everything else, you want to make sure that that trail that you're going to spotlight covers all of that. Another thing that you need to do is make sure that the time of the night that you do your spotlighting is consistent. The people that you used to do the spotlighting is consistent. And also the actual methodology for spotlighting is consistent. So generally you travel at a certain speed throughout your transects and you do this nice steady arc and you're looking for eye shine. So eye shine from rabbits or eye shine from foxes. To do all this though, you're going to need some equipment and that again will depend on the size of the property that you're choosing or wanting to spotlight or do your monitoring. So if it's a larger property, you might use an actual spotlight, like these are quite powerful and can shine it at a certain distance or a large distance, and you can also use them out of a vehicle. And we've got one here that we use regularly for our rabbit monitoring and it's got a purpose built spotlight cage on the back for safety purposes. The other thing you might use if your property's a little bit smaller is just simply using a torch. You want a fairly high powered torch. And again, so you know if you are using your vehicle, you travelling along at a certain distance, same when you're on foot. You travel long at that certain distance. So it wants to be nice and steady and comparable. So after you finish spotlighting the data that you want to analyse is the number of animals seen or the number of individuals seen per spotlight kilometre. So for rabbits, it'll be the number of rabbits that you saw over a spotlight kilometre and you want to compare that information, your before information to your after information, and hopefully see whether there's been a percentage knockdown. And that's basically it for spotlight monitoring.
The type of monitoring technique used will depend on the target animal, the location, and the equipment and resources available. You should also conduct monitoring over several nights during each monitoring period to allow you to calculate an average as your results will be more accurate this way. Most operations monitoring is achieved by recording the costs associated with the control program in terms of time, resources, and equipment. You may also look at the number of animals removed per technique to determine its cost effectiveness. Once you've completed your monitoring, it's also important to analyse the data. For most pest control programs data analysis does not need to be complicated. Remember, you're only trying to confirm that your management program is having their desired impact on the pest animals and their damage, and that the costs aren't outweighing the benefits. So as previously mentioned, you might calculate the average number of passes per species, per camera per night if using camera monitoring, the average number of individuals per spotlight kilometre, if using spotlighting or the average number of plots containing activity per collection period if using activity plots. Monitoring is essential for any pest management program, as it allows you to confirm if your program is meeting the objectives. And if it's not, it enables you to make changes to improve it. It also helps to avoid any non-target impacts. For further information on monitoring and control methods, please watch the other videos in this series, refer to the Agricultural Victoria website or call the Customer Service Centre. Thanks for watching.
Aim to be feral pig free
Create a detailed feral pig management plan that has a specific aim and time-bound objectives. Eradication may not be possible in all areas, so ongoing monitoring and management is often required.
Use the right tools
Effective feral pig management requires the use of all control tools that are suited to your property. Every feral pig should be exposed to as many different control options as possible to ensure that those that are missed with one are accounted for with another.
Time your control program to manage feral pigs prior to the time of year when they cause the most damage. Also, consider their seasonal movements, your ability to access certain areas and how each control techniques may be affected by seasonal conditions.
Drier times when alternate feed is scarce will be more suitable for baiting and trapping as pigs are more likely to eat bait. Their populations are also more likely to be concentrated near water. Importantly, shooting should not be done while baiting/trapping is in progress, because it can disrupt animal behaviour and reduce the effectiveness of your program.
Evaluate your success
Conduct a second round of monitoring after your control program using the same methods you used to monitor prior to undertaking any control. This will help ensure that the results are comparable and that they accurately represent any damage/density declines.
- Are feral pigs still present?
- Are you still experiencing damage caused by feral pigs?
- Is the feral pig damage above or below acceptable thresholds?
- What is working well?
- What could be improved?
- Do you need to change your plan?
- Have you spoken to neighbouring properties?
- Have you managed all the risks?
Continue to monitor feral pig numbers/damage after your control program. When you see signs of feral pig activity again, implement control actions immediately.
Remember, feral pig control is time-consuming and there is no quick-fix solution.
Baiting is one of the most cost-effective control tools for broadscale and rapid feral pig population knockdowns, so it is important to design your integrated feral pig control program around baiting when it is permissible.
The following control measures may be suitable:
- ground shooting
- property hygiene
- exclusion fencing
- harbour removal.
Established Invasive Animals Best Practice Management video series
2. Baiting feral pigs in Victoria
Hi, I'm Jason Wishart, Biosecurity Manager with the Established Invasive Animals Team at Agriculture Victoria. In this video, we are going to look at feral pig baiting. Baiting is a cost-effective way to manage feral pig populations over large areas. It is considered a primary management technique and should be used as part of an integrated program.
Two toxins can be used to manage feral pigs in Victoria, including 1080 and sodium nitrate. 1080 is derived from a naturally occurring compound found in some native Australian plants. As a result, some native wildlife species have built a tolerance to 1080, unlike introduced species that are highly susceptible. Nevertheless, the dose of 1080 required for effective feral pig control is high. So, it's important to avoid baiting where non-target species may be at risk. And to use a feral pig specific bait delivery device to deliver 1080 baits. 1080 can only be used to manage feral pigs in shelf stable feral pig baits. Sodium nitrite is a relatively new toxin for managing feral pigs in Australia. Pigs are particularly sensitive to sodium nitrite poisoning, but it may also be toxic to other species. So, it's important to avoid baiting where non-target species may be at risk. A feral pig specific bait delivery device must also be used to deliver sodium nitrite bait to feral pigs. Sodium nitrite can only be used to manage feral pigs in a shelf stable bait.
Landholders must adhere to a number of legal requirements when using 1080 bait products. First, they must possess a 1080 and PAPP endorsed Agricultural Chemical Users Permit. And then all usage, notification, transportation, safety, storage, disposal must be carried out in accordance with the product label, the directions for use of 1080 and PAPP bait products in Victoria and any relevant state legislation. Landholders are not required to possess an Agricultural Chemical Users Permit to purchase and use sodium nitrite feral pig bait, although it is recommended.
It's important to monitor your property before you undertake your baiting program. Monitoring helps to identify where feral pigs are currently active, and it can be used to measure the effectiveness of your program at a later date. During monitoring, you can actively search for signs of feral pigs, including ground rooting, mud rubs, wallows, tracks, dung, and fence crossings. You may also choose to use remote cameras to confirm feral pig presence at water holes, fence crossings, or along trails.
In the next part of the video, I'll demonstrate how to bait feral pigs. Okay, in this part of the video, I'm going to demonstrate how to bait feral pigs. Now the first thing you want to do or consider when, when developing your feral pig baiting program is to think about timing. So, you want to put baits out in the landscape when feral pigs are more likely to find them and more likely to eat them.
So, a lot of the time that's around summer when things have begun to dry off a little bit. Pigs will be looking around for feed and more likely to come across it and eat your baits. The other thing you want to think about is trying to do your control efforts before the damage. Because sometimes it can be hard to persuade pigs onto bait if they're already causing damage in a crop or, or whatever else it is. So, it's timing when they're best likely to eat it around the damage as well. And then non-target too. So, there might be particular times of the year where you can bait that will avoid impacts to non-target species. So that's always another important one. And when you can bait with your neighbours, because feral pigs travel over large areas and they'll often be found on multiple properties.
So, if you can line that up with your neighbours, that's also a really good thing to do. So, the next part is the site selection and that, that depends a little bit on the environment that you're in as well. But for here, we've decided to place our bait station right here. And the reason for that is we've got some bushland over the back there. Down in the, in the bottom of the gully there's a creek, so there's some, some permanent water there for feral pigs to, to drink and wallow in. And then up on this side, there's some really good feed for them. So, we've noticed they've been digging around for onion weed and that sort of thing, and they'll also graze on the grass. The other important thing that I've found here in terms of location is there are a few holes in the fences behind me and, and beside me there where the pigs are travelling throughout into this pasture area every night. So, we know that they're sort of bottlenecked into this area. They're going to come through here anyway. So rather than trying to bring the pigs to the bait station we are sort of bringing our baits to the pigs, which is a lot easier. So yeah, really, really important. So spend a lot of time looking for active signs, you know, things like diggings, dung, footprints, all of that. You want to place your bait station near the activity. You're always going to be much better off if you can do that.
Okay, so now I'm just going to run through some of the equipment that you're going to need to bait feral pigs. So firstly, you're going to need some sort of non-toxic bait material or free feed material to get them feeding on. So often that's just some sort of grain. That's normally what I would use to get pigs started. So here we have a bit of wheat, so this is just dry wheat and then you've got some cracked corn is another favourite for pigs. And then you can try and make that a little bit sort of smelly, I guess, to bring the pigs in to the site in the first place. Once they're feeding in an area, it's okay, you can just put the dry stuff out. But to get them started and to help them find the bait station, it's a good idea, Yeah, to soak it. So, we've soaked some grain here. It gets a bit of, of a sweet smell to it and if you soak it even longer it gets really quite strong. And then you can use other things like molasses. So, we've got some molasses here that's got a strong smell to, it's quite sweet. So, you can soak the grain in that or you can just mix the grain, the dry grain, this dry grain with it. Another thing that can be used, and it's quite popular as well, is Carasweet. So that's a stock feed additive and it's used to wean smaller animals or young animals onto hard feed. And it's been found to be really, really good for feral pigs. So it gets them started on that grain. It's really quite a strong smell. It's a dry mix so you can see there. And you can just put that in a bucket with some grain and you only need a little bit, but you shake it up and tip it out at the spots where you think pigs are likely to be. Next, we have the manufactured bait products which is what you'll end up feeding to the pigs down the line. So you start with your grain and then you move to the manufactured non-toxic baitthat gets them used to the manufactured bait in the first place and then you would eventually switch to toxic. So in Victoria, as I mentioned earlier in the videos, we can only use manufactured baits. So essentially we've got two types. We've got this cylinder style bait, which is a PigOut bait, and that contains 1080 in a centralised core. So that's really designed to target feral pigs. So the matrix of the bait is designed to be attractive to feral pigs and less attractive to non-target species. And then there's a toxic 1080 core in the centre of that bait that generally only pigs get access to, but you always have to be careful of non-target species. The other bait that's used is relatively new bait is the Hoggone bait, and this is the one that has sodium nitride in it. So this, this bait is more like a paste and it comes into these trays. And these trays then go into a hopper, which I'll talk about in just a second. So we've got the dry grain, then you move them onto the placebo, the non-toxic version, and then you would put the poison version out when you're ready. So moving over to the hoppers, there's a couple of types. This is specifically designed for delivering the Hoggone paste this paste hopper here. It's got little compartments in it for the trays that's slot directly into it. And then it's got a cover that goes over the top that holds those trays in position and it can be used in a number of different levels. So it's important to train pigs onto using this. So it starts open like that and then with a bit of time you lower the lid another time and then they get used to lifting that and then you close it completely and this is magnetised this lid. So that prevents other non-targets from getting in and pigs will pop that magnet and the the lid will just rest on their head. One other piece of equipment is the Hoghopper as well. So this one is more so used for the, the PigOut bait. You start generally with grain in this and you load it from the top. So the grain goes in the top there, you get them used to feeding out of it. This is in a free feed position now. So pigs can get their snout in and start lifting the door. And then once they're used to lifting the door, you take the pin out over the other side there and that closes completely and then you can switch over to your toxic baits and everything like that. So that's your hoppers. And then also you have a remote camera. So these are fantastic for just keeping an eye on your bait stations, making sure that it's pigs that are feeding and not other non-target species. Also making sure that the pigs are all feeding from these hoppers before you put the poison out because if you jump the gun there'll be some that miss out, haven't learnt how to do it. The pigs that have learnt will be killed and the others will not know what to do. So you'll miss animals that way. So that's essentially the equipment that you need. The next thing I'll go through in a minute is just exactly how to run through the actual procedure for baiting.
So here we have some of the pre-feed grain that's been mixed with the Carasweet. So it's nice and smelly. The pig's likely to find it. So at the start of your program, you're going to put that at all of the spots that you identified as feral pig hotspots on your farm. So you don't need a whole lot at the beginning, but it's a good idea to put a decent amount of grain and it's a good idea to replace it every day. Because if you don't, pigs will come along, they'll eat it, and then they'll come back the next night and it's not there. So they'll wander off. So a good amount of grain, I guess would be, and I like to put it in a bit of a line as wellso that they've all got access to the grain, otherwise the little ones will get pushed off. And the big ones eat the whole lot. So at each of your hotspots, put a bit of grain about 20 kilos or so, just in a nice line like that. And you might do little trails as well from this grain pile to the hole in the fence where they're coming from or to a trail that they've been using. So you bring them to the site. If you got a remote camera as well, it's great to use a remote camera on this to make sure that, you know, there's pigs that are actually eating the grain and not some sort of non-target species. So once you've done that, you've got them used to the, to the grain and you know your active spots or your active sites where the pigs are feeding, then you introduce your hopper. Now you don't just go straight swap grain on the ground to a hopper with everything inside the hopper. You've gotta train them. It's just so incredibly important to train pigs to use it. If you skip any steps, it won't work very well. So first things first. You bring your hopper in. You have it at the pre-feed stage, just like this. So this is wide open. Pigs can walk in, eat, no problem at all. So you put some grain generally on the inside of the hopper just like we have here, but on the inside. And then you'll also have some running out, away from the hopper as well. If it was all on the hopper, they might not get used, they might not go to it. They're a bit neophobic, feral pigs. So, you know, they'll gradually eat the stuff that's on the outside and slowly get to the hopper and get used to it and go, Okay, this is safe, I can eat out of this. So once they're eating out of it, that's good. Then you change the lid position. So right now it's quite open easy access, you bring it down just a little bit more to the next setting. So that means I have to actually lift it to get into the bait. So again, all you're using at this point in time is grain. You can still put a little bit on the outside by this stage, but normally the pigs are used to feeding out of it. So it's okay, you can put most of your grain on the inside and start to reduce what's on on the out. Because eventually you want them to only be eating out of this. Once they've done that, they're happily eating that. And you think that's, this could take a couple of days depending on the situation. You close the lead altogether. So we'll do that now. So you close the lid all together and you put your placebo Hoggone in. You don't want placebo Hoggone on the outside of your hopper at any time because you don't want to train non-target species to eat it. You only want pigs eating it. So let's close the lead now and get it all set up. So here we have the the Hoggone placebo paste in these little trays and it'll depend on how many pigs are at the site as to how many trays you use. There's enough for six or so trays in here. You might use an extra hopper to put it on back to back. So pigs can feed at the same time, or you might use another one over to the side a little bit. Just whatever suits your situation. So you put these in here under the this metal retainer that holds the baits in position. Just like that. We'll just use two for the example and then you close that down and lock it into position with the little nuts that prevents pigs pulling these trays out and spilling it outside. Okay, so that's all in position. And what I do now, because the lid is fully closed and we've just introduced the placebo, you can also use some of the grain. So you put some grain on top, nothing on the outside anymore, but put the grain on top so you wean them onto that placebo. So the first night you might do that. The next night you'll do the placebo again by itself, no more grain. And then, yeah, once that's all good, they've eaten the placebo, there's no problem, they're lifting the lid, everything else. Then you can introduce the toxic version of the bait so the toxic Hoggone can go in. Okay, so that's the baiting process. The next thing you'll need to do is every morning after toxic baiting is go for a look for carcasses. To, to find any of those. Often you'll find them within 2-300 metres of the station. Sometimes you won't find, find them at all, but it's important to try to. And the other thing is to clean up the bait station site as well in any unused bait. So all carcasses and, and unused bait needs to be disposed of according to the product label and any other relevant state legislation. So we've, we've gone through everything now and it, it, it is a pretty, pretty long process. But it's an important process, a really important process. If you miss any of these steps or cut corners, it's not going to work very well. It's just, it's just the way it is. With fer pigs, they're really intelligent animals and you need to train them. You need to train them to eat prefeed, you need to train them to use the hopper. Otherwise, yeah, like I said, it's just not going to work. So really it's worth it. It's worth do putting in the effort because you will get the results. So that's, that's really it for, for baiting feral pigs.
Baiting is a cost effective method for managing feral pigs over large areas. As always, it should be undertaken with other control techniques as part of an integrated management program. Baiting should also be undertaken with your neighbours to cover a large area and slow population recovery. For further information on baiting, visit the Agriculture Victoria website or call the Customer Service Centre. Please also watch the other videos in this series to learn about the other control techniques used to manage feral pigs. Thank you.
Coordinated baiting programs are one of the most effective methods for achieving broadscale feral pig population knockdowns. These programs should also be supported by other control techniques such as trapping for best results. Two toxins are registered for use on feral pigs in Victoria: sodium monofluoroacetate (1080) and sodium nitrite.
1080 (sodium monofluoroacetate) is a lethal poison registered to control:
- wild dogs
- feral pigs.
1080 is derived from a compound found in many native Australian plants. Therefore, some Australian native animals have a higher tolerance to 1080, depending on the species. Introduced species such as rabbits, foxes, wild dogs and feral pigs are highly susceptible to 1080 poisoning. As are domestic dogs, cats and livestock.
1080 pest animal bait products registered to control feral pigs in Victoria are only available as commercially produced shelf-stable bait. Shelf-stable feral pig baits are designed to be attractive to omnivores (such as feral pigs) but are less attractive to herbivores or carnivores.
To purchase and use 1080 pest animal bait products in Victoria you must either:
- have an Agricultural Chemical Users Permit (ACUP) with a 1080 endorsement
- have a Commercial Operators Licence (COL) with a vermin destroyer endorsement
- hold a valid Licence To Use Pesticides (LTUP) with an authorisation for the control of pest animals.
Non-target animals may be killed if they consume 1080 bait or poisoned feral pig carcasses. Therefore, wildlife and livestock should not have access to 1080 bait during baiting programs, and 1080 baiting should not be undertaken if non-target species are at risk of being poisoned. All baiting must also be undertaken in accordance with the product label and the Directions for the Use of 1080 and PAPP Pest Animal Bait Products in Victoria.
All uneaten and unused bait and poisoned carcasses must also be disposed of as per the Directions for the Use of 1080 and PAPP Pest Animal Bait Products in Victoria.
Sodium nitrite (HOGGONE)
HOGGONE feral pig bait is a bait used to control feral pigs in Victoria. It contains sodium nitrite which induces the formation of methaemoglobin by oxidising haemoglobin when it is eaten. This reduces the blood's ability to carry oxygen throughout the body, causing major organs failure and death. Death typically occurs within two hours after bait ingestion. Available data shows feral pigs are particularly susceptible to sodium nitrite poisoning, but other species are also susceptible.
HOGGONE feral pig bait is the only registered feral pig bait that contains sodium nitrite. You do not need special authorisation to purchase and use it (e.g. an ACUP). However, you must adhere to the product label and undertake thorough risk assessment before using any HOGGONE feral pig bait.
In addition, HOGGONE feral pig bait must be delivered in a purpose-built bait hopper (Figure 8.) to prevent non-target species from accessing toxic bait material. It is also recommended that users successfully complete a course in agricultural chemical use.
Free feeding is vitally important and it must be conducted at the beginning of your baiting program to:
- determine where feral pigs are actively feeding.
- familiarise feral pigs with the bait.
- determine the amount of poison bait required.
- monitor non-target species risk.
Free feeding, using a type of grain should be undertaken in areas of high feral pig use. This should be undertaken until the pigs are returning to that area regularly. After successfully free feeding with grain, it is important to offer a non-toxic version of the toxic bait you plan to use at least once before toxic baiting commences. This will ensure the pigs are familiar with the toxic bait. Free feed baits can be laid in cluster-bait piles or in specially constructed bait stations depending on the bait being used.Once you identify where the pigs are regularly feeding, you can withdraw the inactive sites and focus on those that are active.
Due to natural wariness, feral pigs may fail to take baits or may take quite some time to commence feeding. If so, try using a bait attractant or potentially postpone the baiting until conditions are better suited (i.e. when alternate feed is scarce).
Toxic bait must only be offered at active free feed bait stations. If using bait hoppers, allow additional time for feral pigs to learn how to access free feed bait inside– this is critical. Once the feral pigs are familiar with the bait hoppers, replace the free feed with the toxic baits.
Bait hoppers are useful because they reduce the potential to harm to non-target animals and help protect the bait from the weather elements.
Trapping is an effective method for managing feral pigs where baiting is not suitable.
Established Invasive Animals Best Practice Management video series
3. Trapping feral pigs in Victoria
Hi, I'm Sam Armstrong, Victorian Feral Pig Coordinator at Agriculture Victoria. In this video we'll look at feral pig trapping. Trapping is an effective method for managing feral pigs, especially when baiting is not suitable. Trapping may be considered as a primary management technique. In some situations, though it should be used as part of an integrated management program.
There are a range of different trap designs available for trapping feral pigs in Victoria. These include silo traps, panel traps and box traps. All are considered confinement traps that consist of an enclosure capable of holding groups of feral pigs and a trap door that allows pigs to enter but prevents them from leaving. A range of trap doors can be used including side hinge, top hinge, funnel type entrances, and guillotine. The doors can be triggered by the pigs themselves or by the operator with a remote-control device. The remote-control device option is the most successful way to trap pigs.
There are also legal considerations that landholders must adhere to when undertaking a feral pig trapping program. The features of the confinement traps and the conditions for their use include trap checking frequency are all stipulated by the Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals regulations 2019. Any feral pigs caught in traps must be destroyed quickly and humanely. Using approved techniques, their carcasses should be removed from the trap and buried. The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals Regulations includes specifications for how to deal with captured non-target animals. Landholders must not bait traps with any type of animal meat or animal byproducts. As this is considered swill feeding and it poses a significant biosecurity risk. You can find more information about legal considerations for the trapping of feral pigs on Agriculture Victoria's website below.
Monitoring helps identify where feral pigs are currently active, and it can be used to measure the effectiveness of your program during monitoring. You can actively search for signs of feral pigs, including ground rooting, mud rubs, wallows, tracks, dung, and fence crossing points. You may also use remote cameras to confirm feral pig presence. In the next part of this video, I will demonstrate how to trap feral pigs.
The first thing you need to take into consideration when you're going to undertake a feral pig trapping program is timing. Timing can be crucial to the success of your program. Feral pigs require water on a daily basis to drink and wallow in. So, if you can do your trapping program at a dryer or hotter time of the year, you may have higher success. It's also a good idea to think of what foods in the landscape for the feral pigs when it's scarce, they may be more attracted to your bait station and trap site. As soon as you see any feral pig damage on your property, it's a good idea to get a program started straight away. And as always, communicate with your neighbours to make sure your footprint of your control program is as large as it can be. This will help with keeping population numbers down.
The next step is you need to work out where you're going to put your free feed base. It's not a good idea to put it anywhere and try to attract the feral pigs to it. It's much easier if you go and find out where the hotspots are, where your feral pigs are active. To do this, concentrate on areas of bodies of water or fresh damage, fresh rooting, wallowing. Once you've found out where the feral pig hotspots are, it's time to start free feeding. You need to remember that where you free feed is where you're going to put your trap. So you, you need to ensure that it's a quiet spot and that there's some shade for the pigs once they are eventually trapped. Okay, now that you've thought about your timing and where you're going to have your bait station, you need to think about equipment needed.
As always, safety needs to be front of mind when you're setting up the trap, during the trapping, and also after. So please use your PPE equipment. So now I'll go through the tools you require to set your trap up. So we have a sledgehammer, some star pickets. We've got pliers, some gloves and some fencing wire. You'll also need your bait that you're going to use to attract the feral pigs to the site. So there's many different things you can use. So today I can show you, we've got some fresh corn here. We've got some wheat, and then we've got some fermented wheat. Fermented wheat has been soaked for about a week and that will help attract the pigs to your area. You can also use things such as Carasweet or molasses.
So as you'll see, I've got a panel trap here. So this is the trap that we'll be showing a demonstration on today. There are a whole heap of other traps as well that you can use. If you are borrowing one, you will need to have it for up to about four weeks as well. And the other piece of equipment which can save you a lot of guesswork in the long run is a trail camera. If you can get your hands on one or even two or three of these it may make your program a lot more successful. So once you've identified your site for free feeding, it's time to introduce the trap to the environment. Feral pigs can be very wary of anything new into their environment. So it's best to have a trap set up with either the gate fully up or the gate off altogether. This way we'll be able to train the pigs to learn how to use the trap and to be feeding inside the trap. So to do so, you can grab some of your free feed and make a trail that starts outside the trap and then feeds into the trap. This way we'll be able to train the feral pigs to come into the trap and be comfortable with feeding inside it. At this stage, it's really important to have your camera on the free feed and trap. This will help you understand what is actually eating your feed. You may think that feral pigs are coming to the site every night and and eating all your grain, but it could be kangaroos, wallabies, birds, or deer. So it's really important to understand that the feral pigs are coming to the site on a nightly basis and that they are the ones that are uptaking the free feed. Once you understand that all the mob is coming here to feed at night, then what you can do is reduce the trail of the feed to basically be 100% inside the trap. At this stage, you may notice on your trail camera that there are some pigs that are hanging out beside some boars or sows that won't go in the trap. This is an indication that you're not ready to set the trap yet. If you be consistent and patient over time, those pigs will go into the trap. So once you're comfortable with the feral pigs feeding inside the trap and moving inside and outside freely, it's time to introduce the gate. This is a panel trap and we've just opened the panel trap with some wire here. We've also used star pickets on the side of the gate to really secure it in. Feral pigs are extremely strong, especially when they're confined, they will be able to move the trap quite a lot if you don't secure it to the ground. So this needs to be held up like this for a couple of nights. We're now training the feral pigs to use the door and be comfortable with the door. They need to understand that they can move in and move out and it's not a threat to them. So once you're confident the feral pigs are entering and exiting via the door in this position here, it's time to lower it just a little bit more. And this will, for another couple of nights, they'll get used to the feeling of the door perhaps on their back. And then once they're comfortable with that entering and exiting, then it's time to set the trap. As discussed. There are different traps on the market that you can use for feral pig trapping. This is a panel trap. It's quite a traditional method. There are newer ones on the market which are remote activated. They're very successful in controlling a hundred percent of the mob. So that has a guillotine style gate that you can activate via a text message. And you can be certain because you're watching it in live time, that the whole mob has been trapped. So the panel trap works with the way of feral pig will walk in and hopefully other feral pigs follow the trap will be activated and the door will slam shuts.
So unfortunately, there may be some feral pigs that are left outside the trap. If this is the case, you need to check your camera and you need to make a decision on how you're going to control the rest of the mob that didn't get trapped; either baiting, another trap program, or ground shooting. So once you've got pigs in your trap, it's really important that you check it as soon as possible the next day. It's important that you have the correct ammunition and firearms to use to control them. And once you've done that, you need to ensure that you remove the carcasses and bury them to reduce the biosecurity risk. It's a good idea to wash down everything that you've used, all the equipment, your vehicle, and the trap.
Although trapping feral pigs can be quite a process and can take up to four weeks depending on free feeding. It is really important not to miss any steps. Otherwise, you won't be successful. Feral pigs is extremely intelligent animals and you need to be patient with your free feeding and introducing the trap into their environment to be successful. Trapping is effective for managing feral pigs when baiting is not suitable. As always, it should be undertaken with other control techniques as part of an integrated program. Trapping should also be undertaken with your neighbours to cover a large area and slow the population recovery. For further information on trapping visit the Agriculture Victoria website. Please watch the other videos in this series to learn about other control techniques used for feral pig management. Thank you.
A range of different trap designs can be used to trap pigs including silo, panel, or box traps. All of which, basically consist of a mesh enclosure containing a lure or bait that feral pigs find attractive. Pigs typically gain access through a one-way entrance and are unable to escape. Remote trigger gates are also being used more regularly. They allow the trapper to drop the gate when the feral pigs entre the trap using a remote trigger device and a real-time remote camera.
To comply with animal welfare legislation, traps must be checked at least every 24 hours to minimise the time that trapped feral pigs or non-target species are held. Trapped feral pigs must be quickly and humanely destroyed. Feral pigs trapped during a control program must not be released from traps.
Like baiting, trapping success is affected by season, food availability and trap placement in the landscape. Free feeding is also required for trapping to familiarise feral pigs with a trap and coax greater numbers of animals into the trap before it is set.
Hunting activity in the area will make trapping less effective. Trapping requires considerable time and cost for construction and ongoing maintenance of traps. Some feral pigs may become 'trap shy' and prove difficult to capture requiring alternative control methods.
Any trapping of feral pigs must be carried out in accordance with the requirements of the POCTAand associated regulations.
Trapping has several animal welfare implications and anyone considering trapping should read Humane Vertebrate Pest Control.
Other management techniques
These techniques are best employed as complimentary to baiting, and trapping as part of an integrated pest management program. Using these techniques on their own will rarely achieve long term control.
Established Invasive Animals Best Practice Management video series
4. Supplementary feral pig control options in Victoria
Hi, I'm Nigel Roberts, Leading Biosecurity Officer with the Established Invasive Animals team at Agriculture Victoria. In this video, we'll be looking at secondary management techniques to help control feral pigs on your property. Please note: the techniques discussed in this video should only be considered as part of an integrated pest management program, based around baiting and trapping, and using them in isolation will rarely achieve desired results. Always consider your situation and what technique or combination of techniques best suit your property. Thank you for watching and we hope you find this information helpful.
Exclusion fencing is a non-lethal option landholders can use to help protect high value areas on their property from feral pigs. Exclusion fencing for feral pigs can be very expensive and may not be a practical or economic way to protect large areas of land. There is also extra cost and time involved in regularly maintaining and ensuring exclusion fencing is in good working condition. Feral pigs are large and very strong animals that can cause extensive damage to fence systems over time. Please consider this option carefully and assess if it will be an effective method for your property.
Aerial shooting works best on large inaccessible areas with low trees and minimal canopy coverage, but it is not that cost effective when feral pigs occur in low numbers. It can be a humane option for rapid population knockdowns before conducting trapping or baiting programs. Effectiveness of aerial shooting can be increased when neighbours join together to cover larger areas. In Victoria, aerial shooting is primarily used on public land.
Ground shooting is another management option available in Victoria. Ground shooting is target specific and humane if done correctly. However, it often only removes a small proportion of feral pigs on your land. Additionally, feral pigs can become harder to shoot as they become wary, often giving landholders a false sense of success. Landholders may use non-toxic baits to lure pigs to a certain locations for ground shooting, but again, shooting is not an effective standalone technique for broad scale control. If you are conducting shooting on your property, you must adhere to all relevant safety and legal requirements. Shooting should always be undertaken humanely in accordance with the Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals act.
The control methods discussed in this video should be considered as complementary options to baiting or trapping as part of an integrated pest management program. Exclusion fencing may be used to help protect high value areas on your property. Aerial shooting for larger inaccessible properties with high feral pig numbers and ground shooting for smaller properties as follow up to baiting and/or trapping. Thanks for watching, and please see the other videos in this series. For further information on baiting and trapping feral pigs.
Exclusion fencing is a non-lethal way of protecting high-value areas from feral pigs, though it is expensive and impractical at a large scale.
Very few fences will guarantee protection from feral pigs, especially if they are already habituated to feeding in the area you wish to protect. Fences also need regular maintenance as they become ineffective once a breakthrough occurs.
Electrified strands can be added as outriggers or staked in front and will greatly improve the effectiveness and longevity of the fence. Also, consider wire spacings in relation to the size of the feral pigs to be excluded.
It is best to have fences built by experienced or professional fencers.
While shooting is probably the most target-specific and humane form of feral pig control, hunting alone will not achieve long-term population reductions. Shooting is also likely to quickly educate pigs making them wary and difficult to sight during monitoring activities.
Ground shooting is highly labour intensive and often opportunistic and uncoordinated. As a result, ground shooting is unlikely to reduce the feral pig population enough to reduce their overall impacts. However, ground shooting may be useful where smaller isolated populations of feral pigs exist or as follow up to other forms of control.
Aerial Shooting from a helicopter is suitable for controlling feral pigs over large areas and where there is a high feral pig population density. It is highly target-specific, humane and cost effective where the terrain is suitable to detect feral pigs and where shooting is carried out by an appropriately trained and skilled operator.
Aerial shooting becomes expensive when populations are low, due to the difficulty in finding widely distributed animals, nor is it suitable for areas with closed tree canopies.
The use of firearms to control feral pigs must conform to relevant firearm legislation and be integrated with other control methods.
All Feral pig carcasses should be buried on the farm or collection site on which it was taken as soon as possible.
When burying the carcasses, conduct a site assessment to ensure that the burial site does not adversely impact the land, surface waters, groundwaters or the air (odour).
Dumping of animal carcasses is considered rubbish dumping or pollution depending on its scale and location.
Remember to observe good hygiene practices when handling feral pig carcasses or any equipment that may have been contaminated by feral pigs, and always wear personal protection equipment (PPE).
For more information on biosecurity and animal diseases: https://agriculture.vic.gov.au/biosecurity/animal-diseases
Changes in farming production systems may be considered as a last resort where the impacts of feral pigs are extremely difficult to control.
In areas affected by feral pigs, small lambing paddocks should be used to allow easier monitoring of the flock and reduce the chances of young lambs or kid goats being left unattended a long way from their mothers. Lambing paddocks situated close to the house are also easier to check frequently.
Removal of woody weeds such as blackberry is important as it can provide harbour for breeding and protection for feral pigs from whether extremes.
Figures 1–9 courtesy of Jason Wishart and Sam Armstrong.