A FERAL animal officer collecting data from GPS trackers on feral pigs says they are only becoming more of a problem and are moving east putting pressure on cropping areas previously unaffected.
Attendees of the Surat Predator Control Day were given an insight into the latest data on feral pigs by Queensland Murray Darling Committee Feral Animal Officer Darren Marshall who has been conducting GPS collar trials for six months.
He has collar stations at Moree, Glen Innes, Miles and the Arcadia Valley which send location updates every 30 minutes.
The tracking collar trial will continue for another six months in the hope of providing producers with a year’s worth of data so they can pounce on the pigs when they are most vulnerable, rather than when they affect agriculture assets.
GPS tracking of feral pigs is disproving common myths about the pest including their movements and the underestimated impact they have on lambing rates, preying on them and leaving no evidence.
Mr Marshall said commonly people believed feral pigs travelled long distances to impact crops and often national parks and mining companies were blamed for harbouring feral pigs.
But they often didn’t travel further than a few kilometres if they had food, water and shelter and pastures were just as vulnerable.
He said in the Arcadia Valley collaring area, there was one block of chickpeas in an area of pasture properties and the pig was yet to go near it.
“The pig problem is not getting any smaller,” he said.
“There is a dead pig as you drive into Drayton at Toowoomba. Out in this western areas they are probably at their full extent in terms of distribution...but I think they are spreading east and are having more of an impact on eastern cropping areas.
“They will just keep going with their routine and we have got to be smart enough to intercept them at the time when they are vulnerable.”
Earlier this year, following the Condamine Aerial Pig Shoot, Western Downs Regional Council Deputy Mayor Andrew Smith said it was important to stay on top of the feral pig problem due to their quick breeding.
“Feral pigs in some areas have been known to increase 500 per cent in a 12 to 15 month period,” he said.
When it comes to managing the problem, shooting, hunting and offering a bounty won’t achieve anything, according to QMDC’s Darren Marshall.
He said baiting was the most effective way to manage feral pigs.
“Shooting might be handy and successful to take out problem animals so if you have got a couple of boars that are taking lambs, definitely target them, but the concept of shooting doesn't take enough of the population,” he said.
“Getting two or three doesn’t really have any impact at all, you have got to get 70 per cent of them.”
The next focus for research and studies will be on finding new ways to eradicate them.
Feral pigs don’t have sweat glands so they require water to drink and wallow in a number of times a day.
Mr Marshall said water could be used when trying to trap them.
“We have had shooting, baiting and trapping forever,” he said.
“How do we exploit them? How do we make use of the fact that they need to get to water? Can we manage them better on water? Are there better ways to poison them? It’s really tricky because we can have all of those management tools but then for me the next step is how do we get people involved.”
He said the rise of pigs meant it was more than just a problem for those with crops, the spread of diseases particularly Leptospira pomona was significant.
A test of 118 pigs found 27 (23 per cent) of them return positive readings for Leptospira pomona.