The National Feral Pig Action Plan

Midwest Feral Pig Demonstration Site, Western Australia

The Midwest Feral Pig Demonstration site involves three Recognised Biosecurity Groups (RBG), Northern Biosecurity Group (NBG), Central Wheatbelt Biosecurity Association (CWBA) and Midlands Biosecurity Group (MBG), located in the northern agricultural zone of Western Australia working together to coordinate their vertebrate pest management activities.

The three RBG’s manage populations of their priority declared pests across a combined area of 100,000 km2

What's been achieved

  • Strong partnerships and collaborations in vertebrate pest management are being fostered by these three RBG’s.
  • These collaborations are enabling coordinated timings of their feral pig management activities.
  • Northern Biosecurity Group’s most recent aerial control program was conducted from 28 February to 4 March 2022. 2282 feral pigs were removed over 5 days and 40 hours of flying time in the Northern Biosecurity Agricultural zone. 22 foxes, 4 cats and 2 deer were also despatched during the program. More details on the shoot and on ground activities can be found in the NFPAP’s March 2022 newsletter.
  • The Central Wheatbelt Biosecurity Association and Midlands Biosecurity Group had their aerial control program from Tuesday 15 to 17 March 2022 with a total of 612 feral pigs culled. More details can be found in the NFPAP’s April 2022 newsletter.

Background of Program

To maintain sustainable grain and livestock industries in the Mid West where risks to production from feral pigs are reduced.

We are trying to achieve this by:

  • Supporting coordinated feral pig management on a nil-tenure basis using effective and ethical control techniques.
  • Raising awareness amongst landholders and community around feral pig control and best-practice techniques.
  • Active engagement of land managers in relevant group activities and research projects to better understand feral pig behaviour and abundancy, and their impacts.
  • Strengthening land manager’ confidence to effectively apply on-ground best practice management.
  • Obtaining an understanding of the impacts of feral pigs to agricultural, environmental and social assets.

Feral pigs are predominantly located near water sources and are common across most of the Local Government Areas (LGA’s) within the Midwest Feral Pig Demonstration Site region.

A preferred vegetation type has not been identified – they are encountered from soaks in broadacre paddocks, to rocky breakaways near reserves.

It is considered that the range of feral pigs is extending to the MidWest Demonstration Site’s eastern boundaries and have been sighted close to the pastoral boundary.

Who's involved?

The Midwest Feral Pig Demonstration site involves three Recognised Biosecurity Groups (RBG), Northern Biosecurity Group (NBG), Central Wheatbelt Biosecurity Association (CWBA) and Midlands Biosecurity Group (MBG), located in the northern agricultural zone of Western Australia.

These three RBG’s are working together to coordinate their vertebrate pest management activities with the Department of Primary Industries and Resource Development (DPIRD), Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) and local Natural Resource Management groups.

Recognised Biosecurity Groups (RBG) are community-based independent groups in Western Australia that have been formally recognised under section 169 the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007 to support land managers to control declared pest animals and weeds on their own properties.

As at September 2021, fourteen RBGs are currently in place in Western Australia.

A Declared Pest Rate is raised by the State from landholders in specific areas and these are then matched dollar for dollar by the State.

Each RBG operates under the direction of a board, comprised of representative landholders, with their regions extending across several local government areas. The management priorities for each group are set by its Board and described in Annual Operating Plans for each RBG.

Each RBG facilitates a community led and coordinated approach to the management of widespread and established declared pests, and are each managed by an Executive Officer.

Landholders are actively encouraged to participate in the activities of their local RBG.

Activities being conducted

Each of the RBG’s involved in this demonstration site facilitate and coordinate their own integrated feral pig management programs.

Declared Pest Rates are used to contract Licensed Pest Management Technicians (LPMT) to work with local landholders and community to conduct coordinated baiting, trapping and aerial culling activities across the Midwest region.

Feral pig hotspot areas are identified based on LPMT and landholder reports.

Landholders with a current Restricted Pesticide Permit can participate at any of the organised community baiting days during the summer months.

These baiting days are organised across the region where neighbouring landholders ask questions and talk to their local LPMT on pre-feeding requirements and baiting techniques.

Chemical and mixing costs are covered by the RBG, with grain supplied by landholders.

All three RBGs have invested in high quality trapping equipment.

Traps are either set up by the local LPMT or can be monitored and set by the local landholder.

The Matlock trapping system, which has a remotely operated door, supported by a surveillance camera connected to the mobile network, allows landholders to monitor feral pig numbers in and around the trap via a remote real-time video link.

When all identified pigs have entered the trap, the door is closed (via an App). This system prevents pigs from becoming trap shy.

Aerial control programs are conducted at least annually, with helicopters only flying over landholder-approved properties to identify and despatch feral pigs, deer, foxes and cats (if possible).

The most recent aerial programs were held in March 2022.  If budgets allow, additional aerial programs will be conducted later in the year across the identified feral pig hot spot areas.

In conjunction with the aerial control program, on ground research activities are coordinated by DPIRD to investigate the feral pig population response to coordinated control in the region.

The population dynamics of a subset of feral pigs shot during the program, as well as their dietary preferences, within the region are being explored.

Early evidence from the 2022 study indicated that:

  • The average weight of females was 31kg, and of males was 43kg with the biggest pig weighing in at 123.2 kg.
  • Average age of females was 8 months, and average age of males was 11 months.
  • 69% of pigs sampled were less than 1 year old, highlighting the high breeding rate of pigs, especially following a good harvest year, like the 2021-22 year.
  • 75% of sexually mature females were pregnant or had piglets at foot.

 

In partnership with DPIRD, a camera trap monitoring program commenced in January 2018 to measure the impact of feral pig management strategies across the region. Initially, 36 cameras were installed in the Northampton area, where the annual aerial shooting programs are being conducted (running from February 2018 to March 2022).

More recently, the three RBGs are collaborating and co-investing in a feral pig and wild dog camera surveillance project. This two-year project is jointly funded by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment as part of its $30.3 m Established Pest Animals and Weeds Management Pipeline Program and DPIRD.

An additional 90 cameras are being installed throughout the region. Automated image analysis of camera footage and facial recognition, using eVorta software, is being used to monitor populations of invasive animals.

This information will be used to improve understanding of changes in population sizes that have resulted from coordinated management programs and/or seasonal conditions. The automated analysis of images captured by each camera will provide timely information to individual landholders on whose land the cameras have been positioned as well, as to the RBG more broadly, on the movements and occurrence of feral pigs and wild dogs. The eVorta system enables significant cost-efficiencies to be realised as it removes the extensive time and labour required to collect SD cards, trawl through thousands of photos where individual pigs have been identified and record data.

Automated software to detect pest animals, including feral pigs, from thermal imagery is being developed as part of a Centre for Invasive Species Solutions funded project, in collaboration with DPIRD WA, DAF QLD and DPI NSW. These groups are collaborating in this project to increase their understanding of feral pig abundance and densities.

GPS collars are being used by the NBG to better understand pig movement at different times of the year and during on-ground and aerial control programs.

A total of 31 collars have been deployed over the past two years. Preliminary data analysis showed very little movement of GPS-collared pigs in their habitat (<2km radius). Collars are now being retrieved from these pigs as they are despatched. The final report is due by the end of 2022.

In June 2021, DPIRD surveyed 70 transects across the Northampton area using thermal imaging technology fitted to a helicopter, to estimate the abundance and density of feral animals across the landscape. Feral pigs are an ideal candidate for thermal imaging as they radiate a lot of heat. 

Pigs were the primary pest species observed within the Northampton pilot survey area with an estimated 11.2 pigs/km2 in hotspot areas. This is considered high compared to other thermal surveys in other regions of Australia (note: this reflects that the landscape is highly productive with plentiful food, water and shelter available).

The NBG has been working extensively with the community to cull over 3500 pigs within its region. Remote monitoring cameras indicate a decline in feral pig numbers in response to increased trapping and aerial culling programs.

It is unknown how many feral pigs are present across the landscape which are impacting agricultural assets and threatened flora and fauna.

To improve the understanding of feral pig impacts in the Midwest region, funding is being sought to use thermal imagery to estimate the density of feral pigs and better understand their distribution across the wider landscape.

Funding

For each RBG, a Declared Pest Rate is raised by the State from landholders in specific areas and these are then matched dollar for dollar by the State for pest and weed management.

The two-year feral pig and wild dog camera surveillance project is jointly funded by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, as part of its $30.3 m Established Pest Animals and Weeds Management Pipeline Program, and DPIRD. The three RBGs are collaborating and co-investing in this project.

In the media

Further Information

Contact

Marieke Jansen, Northern Biosecurity Group Executive Officer, nbg_eo@outlook.com or 0427898160.

Figures and photos have been supplied by Northern Biosecurity Group (NBG), Central Wheatbelt Biosecurity Association (CWBA) and Midlands Biosecurity Group (MBG) and DPIRD.