The National Feral Pig Action Plan

December 2023 newsletter update

Please read below about some of the workshops and conferences that have happened through December 2023.

Moorabool Landcare Network, Myrniong, VIC

Photo: Alex Pattinson, Victorian Feral Pig Coordinator speaking at the Moorabool Landcare Network feral pig workshop

Increasing impacts from feral pigs felt by land managers in the Myrniong area, west of Melbourne, led to the Moorabool Landcare Network holding a Feral Pig Management Workshop on 23 November.

Moorabool Landcare Network facilitator Roger MacRaild guided the discussion that enabled community members to raise the challenges, and some wins, that they’ve had with feral pig control in their area with other attendees.

Hunting of feral pigs and illegal trespass by hunters are major issues being experienced by both private and public land managers in the area. A Divisional Firearms Officer from Victoria Police attended the meeting to discuss these issues. The officer urged the group to stay vigilant and to report any suspicious behaviour to Victoria Police by reporting it. The importance of gun safety was also emphasised, particularly as high calibre guns used for feral pig control can be deadly at long distances.

Agriculture Victoria’s Victorian Feral Pig Coordinator, Alex Pattinson, then discussed how feral pig behaviour, biology and ecology can be used to inform strategic management decisions by land managers. Alex also demonstrated how to pre feed, bait feral pigs using HOGGONE, and trap pigs using a traditional gate or remotely triggered gate system.

Parks Victoria presented on their work to manage herbivore vertebrate pests on Parks Victoria managed estates, including feral pig monitoring and control activities. This instigated constructive discussions between Parks Victoria and private land managers on the benefits of, and how to report, feral pig sightings and damage, and how this information can then be used to support future projects.

Agriculture Victoria is working with the Moorabool Landcare Network to encourage local public and private land managers to come together to form a community-led feral pig management group. A regional feral pig management plan and a series of local action plans for more targeted programs are also under development through the Moorabool Landcare Network.

Dartmoor Feral Pig Workshop, VIC

On 6 December 2023, Heather attended and presented at a feral pig workshop in Dartmoor in south west Victoria organised by Wes Burns from the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA). Feral pigs are a growing problem across this region and are spreading in their distribution. The purpose of this workshop was to provide an opportunity for private land managers, including farmers and plantation managers, to interact with public land managers and build opportunities to work together, report sightings, monitor impacts and remove feral pigs from the landscape.

In addition to an update on the NFPAP and the importance of monitoring by Heather, this workshop featured presentations on feral pig management in Victoria (Alex Pattinson, Victorian Feral Pig Coordinator, Agriculture Victoria), disease and biosecurity risks (Dr. Regina Fogarty, Principal Veterinary Officer – Pigs, Agriculture Victoria), protecting river forest country and DEECA’s Good Neighbour Program (Wes Burns, Forest Fire Management Victoria) and controlling feral pigs in the Budj Bim World Heritage Cultural Landscape (Sammy Walsh-Bannam, Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation). Best practice baiting and trapping demonstrations were made by Agriculture Victoria and Forest Fire Management Victoria staff.

Strengthening relationships with local land managers, and working more effectively with them on a cross tenure basis to reduce feral pigs, is a key DEECA focus. To enable this, a Protecting River Forest Country Project officer was recently appointed based in Heywood. Overall, it was a successful day, with more than 40 private and public land managers in attendance.

Photo: Wes Burns, DEECA Forest Fire Management Victoria presenting at the Dartmoor feral pig workshop

Lake Cargelligo meeting, NSW

A feral pig information session held at the Lake Cargelligo Bowling Club on Thursday 16 November provided a great opportunity for Heather to raise community awareness of the NFPAP and how their on-ground management actions are contributing to its delivery. This opportunity arose within a local information session for farmers jointly organised by Central West, Riverina and Western Local Land Services (LLS) as part of the NSW Government’s $13 million Feral Pig Program 2023-2024.

As mentioned in our October newsletter, three priority hotspot areas, or priority landscape control zones, have been established in NSW. These priority landscape control zones are being established at Lake Cargelligo adjacent to the Lachlan River (involving Riverina, Western and Central West Local Land Services regions), west of Coolah within the Central West Local Land Services region and Lower Gwydir River sub-catchment west of Moree within the North West Local Land Services region.

The feral pig management and monitoring approaches to be used to remove feral pigs from the landscape in the Lake Cargelligo region were explained and discussed with attendees. The approach being used is based on that of the Western Riverina Pest Project, one of the NFPAP’s demonstration sites, where LLS biosecurity officers and landholders work together to control feral pigs across private and public land. Control programs will be focussed around more permanent water resources as dry conditions expected over summer deplete other water sources.

Our thanks are extended to Bec Gray, NSW Feral Pig Coordinator, for the invitation to meet affected land managers and local LLS staff.

Updates on this program will be shared through this newsletter as they become publicly available or visit to find out more, including helpful resources.

Photo: David Cooney, Central West LLS presenting to farmers from the Lake Cargelligo region
Photo from left: Bec Gray, NSW Feral Pig Coordinator with Joel Christie-Johnson (Central West LLS) and Fraser Hamilton (Riverina LLS)

Australian Wildlife Management Society Conference

Narelle Dybing attended the 36th Australian Wildlife Management Society’s Conference in Melbourne from 5-7 December 2023 and presented two papers on behalf of the National Feral Pig Action Plan. Narelle highlighted what is and isn’t currently known about disease risks posed by feral pigs to humans, livestock, wildlife and domestic animals and what is needed to address knowledge gaps.

Narelle Dybing presenting at the AWMS 2023 conference

Feral pigs were the focus of three other presentations:

Matthew Rees from CSIRO presented the collaborative work with ABARES on an integrated species distribution model of feral pigs in Australia. This work has collated diverse data sets across Australia for priority pests and weeds and has developed an Integrated Species Distribution Model (ISDM) workflow. The results from this work is currently with the states and territories for review.

Luke Woodford from DEECA’s Arthur Rylah Institute presented population density modelling to estimate feral pigs and deer densities and abundance in the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape in south west Victoria. Camera traps and distance markers placed in front of each camera by Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners enabled point-transect distance-sampling models to be used to estimate feral animal densities at each camera. Total population abundances were then inferred from these estimates. For feral pigs, the average density was estimated to be 5.4 pigs/km2 or an abundance of 490 feral pigs.

James Templeton from the Conservation Ecology Centre, Cape Otway, discussed how camera grids, tracking collars, environmental DNA sampling and aerial infrared monitoring were applied to locate feral pigs in key areas in the Otways and determine the most effective management approaches. Cage trapping was the primary method used to remove feral pigs, with sodium nitrite and ground shooting also used. Strong community engagement and collaboration with Landcare networks, forestry plantation companies, water authorities, and public land managers was a major focus of this project. Overall, feral pig numbers were reduced by 95% within the targeted landscapes, with 317 feral pigs controlled. Funding from the Wild Otways Initiative has now been completed with minimal resourcing available for ongoing work. To read more, click here.

Matthew Rees presenting on the feral pig Integrated Species Distribution Model
James Templeton from the Conservation Ecology Centre, Cape Otway