Feral pigs are a major threat to the Wide Bay Burnett region’s agricultural industries and environmental systems. They cause a range of impacts and include damage to infrastructure, spreading of weeds, damage to crops and water quality decline.

Jim Mitchell, a former Queensland feral pig researcher and Director of FeralFix, provides his thoughts on feral pig trapping.

Feral pig trapping can be an effective control method especially when integrated with other control techniques or where some control techniques cannot be used.  It is best suited to remove small, localised populations where there is limited access to natural food and water sources, or in locations of high value agricultural crops, closely settled urban areas or in high tourist visitation sites.

The primary advantage of feral pig trapping is that it is seen as being a more environmentally friendly and humane control method over other control options (i.e. baiting), where non-target species accidently captured can be easily released without being harmed. Other advantages of feral pig trapping is that it you know what feral pigs you have captured and can capture a large number of pigs quickly.

In association with these advantages, however, there are also a number of disadvantages. The first is that, compared to other control options, the initial costs of feral pig trapping are usually higher. Despite these initial costs however, materials are usually long lasting and reusable, meaning that initial costs can be spread over a longer time period. The second disadvantage is the time commitment required to monitor and operate the trap. Due to animal welfare concerns, traps cannot be set up and left un-monitored due and need to be monitored at a minimum of a daily basis (depending upon environmental conditions).

The main factor influencing trapping success is trapping opportunity (the encounter rate of pigs with traps). Once the trap is encountered then other factors such as the palatability of the bait material, the hunger of pigs (determined by the availability of natural food), the behaviour of individual pigs, the effectiveness of the trap design and trap door mechanism all combine to influence trapping success. See Mark Lamb’s Five Pillars for feral pig free feeding.

An effective trapping program hinges on experience; patience; trap design, placement, quantity and maintenance; as well as palatable bait material with which to free-feed (condition the pigs to the food source) and then tempt them into the traps. To improve your trapping effectiveness, consider the following tips when you next undertake your feral pig trapping program.

Jim’s Tips

Site selection

  • Selecting a suitable trapping site is one of the most important factors in successful trapping. Areas of recent pig activity such as fresh wallows, pig pads or fresh diggings seen, in likely pig habitats such as swamps, creek lines and forest edges are ideal locations.
  • Vehicle access to your trapping location is essential. Not only because of the large amount of bait that is required during the pre-feeding stages, but also for monitoring the trap.

Selection of bait material

  • Due to the large quantities of bait required for trapping, selected bait material should be readily available and at low or no cost. Where pigs are eating carrion, fermented meat meal can be used. The direct feeding of meat or meat products to feral pigs in traps is illegal and must not be undertaken (due to disease spread concerns).
  • In areas where waste fruit is available these can also produce good results.
  • Fermented grain and molasses are also good trap bait. To provide ease, brewing a drum of fermenting grain or other bait material inside the pig trap will reduce carrying bait material. And the smell of the bait will attract pigs to the trap .
  • Pouring a small amount of creosote or waste engine oil over the trap posts will sometimes attract pigs to the site.

Free feeding

  • Before starting any trapping activities, free feeding sites should be established in areas of pig activity. Start free feeding by depositing small amounts of bait material throughout the site or along roads or tracks.
  • Monitor and replenish free feeding sites for several days to accustom the feral pigs to the bait material and to maximise the number of animals attracted to the area.
  • When bait is continually taken from a particular site, discontinue free feeding in other sites and focus on the location which is receiving the greatest attention. If the feral pigs continue feeding from the active free feeding site, a trap may be partially erected (leaving a wide entrance way) and the feed material placed inside the trap.
  • Once feral pigs are confident of entering and exiting the trap, and are taking bait placed at the rear of the trap, finish constructing the trap but leave the gate wired open, so that they can come and go as desired.
  • Following three days of further feeding within the trap, the door can then be “set”.

Trapping

  • Once traps are set, they must be inspected EVERY morning.
  • If feral pigs are hesitant to enter the trap, try placing bait material outside the door or laying a bait trail to the trap. If you are still having trouble enticing pigs into the trap, dig up the ground inside the trap or use food attractants such as vanilla essence, aniseed, and creosote or fish oil.
  • While pigs are being caught in one trap, start/continue to free feed at other sites so that the trap can be moved and immediately continue to catch pigs when the first site is exhausted.
  • Do not use trip wires in traps as non-target captures will result.
  • A major factor affecting trap success is the number and distribution of traps. Traps may only draw pigs from an 800 m radius, so insufficient numbers of traps, or areas where traps cannot be placed will mean some pigs may not even encounter a trap.

The main thing to remember is that trapping is a process not an event – it takes time and effort to successfully trap pigs.

Additional resources

This website has been developed through funding by the Queensland Government as part of the Better Partnership Project.

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