One of the most important tasks for land holders looking after the bush is to remove and control weeds and pest animals. Our two biggest problems are cats claw creeper vine, which covers trees until it kills them, and feral pigs. Feral pigs are opportunistic omnivores and will consume animal material including small mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs, crayfish, eggs, and carrion; earthworms and other invertebrates; underground fungi; and all parts of plants including the fruit, seeds, roots, tubers, bulbs and foliage. Feral pigs spread disease.
A group of feral pigs is often referred to as a 'mob' or 'sounder', which typically consists of related sows (mother, daughters, sisters, aunts, etc.) and their young. Bachelor mobs form when sexually mature males leave or are chased from their mother's group. At about 18 months, males become more solitary and will rejoin the female groups only for mating purposes.
At first, we attempted to trap the feral pigs in a make shift trap. Trapping is a slow process and getting the feral pigs familiar with and inside the trap may take weeks. We caught five half grown feral pigs in this trap. These animals had to be shot.
Although we had initial success with the trap, pigs are very smart and may become trap shy. We weren’t able to replicate our first success. It is difficult in our bush terrain to get a trap to where the pigs are. It is a easier on a farm with open spaces.
More feral pigs turned up and dug up a huge area in an old paperbark forest. It's difficult to visualise the extensive damage these feral animals do to the land.
To compound the problem, this area had been infested with cats claw creeper vine. We had been treating this area with herbicide. We sprayed the cats claw vine as it had formed a carpeted mat across the ground as well as going up the trees. This was successful and the cats claw vine died back. (Please have a look at our other blog on our endeavours to remove cats claw creeper vine.)
The feral pigs took complete advantage of this area by digging it up were the cats claw creeper vine was cleared, this was easier for the feral pigs to access. They literally ploughed right to the areas where the cats claw carpet was and left the areas that had not been treated with herbicide.
HOGGONE® meSN® Feral Pig Bait
We were in contact with Local Land Services and were told about a new bait for feral pigs, HOGGONE®. Local Land Services provided us with a
HOGGONE® bait station
Grain, for free feeding
Placebo bait - used to get the pigs used to the final bait
Carasweet - a feral pig attractant
NSW North Coast Local Land Services were running trials of this product in the Clarence Valley.
There are many issues with baiting feral animals, especially the possible consumption by non target species like native wildlife, livestock and domestic pets, either directly consuming the toxin bait or eating a dead animal carcass. HOGGONE® is specific to pigs. The placebo bait is similar in texture and smell to the actual toxin bait. It does contain peanut so be aware of allergies. Carrasweet smells of cherry ripe and is applied in small quantities to the grain being free fed. Feral pigs find it irresistible!
The active ingredient in the toxin bait is sodium nitrite (NaNO₂). It is used as a food additive and preservative when curing bacon and other preserved meats, it is something humans actually consume, although in much lower concentrations. Pigs lack an enzyme to process sodium nitrite.
One toxin bait weighs 625g, 100g of toxin bait is enough to kill a large feral pig. NaNO₂ diminishes oxygen in the animals blood stream causing organ failure resulting in the feral pig to lose consciousness and quickly die, usually within 50 - 200 metres from the bait station. Sodium nitrite breaks down in the dead animals body and dissipates so doesn’t affect other animals that may feed on the carcass or contaminate the ground were the carcass decays.
The bait station itself is integral for a safe baiting process as it excludes other animals from getting to the bait by having a lid held closed with magnets. Feral pigs are intelligent and quickly learn to open the lid to feed. We monitor the whole process using a motion sensor camera. In all photographic observations, no other animal attempted to open the lid.
Motion Sensor Camera
A motion sensor camera, or two, is an incredibly useful tool. There may be hundreds of photos to go through each day but at least you will understand what is happening. Through camera observation, you will see which animals are actually eating the grain and how many feral pigs are turning up thus determining how much placebo and toxin bait to put out. One toxin bait may kill at least six fully grown feral pigs. The feral pigs will regulate how much toxin bait they actually consume.
The process of baiting feral pigs requires working through several steps. Patience is required!
Begin free feeding in the area were recent feral pig activity is observed.
Get the feral pigs used to eating the grain from the bait station with the lid locked opened and then with the lid closed.
Replace the grain with placebo bait.
Replace the placebo bait with the toxin bait.
What We Do
When feral pigs are in the area, free feed in that area for at least two days maybe more. We use grain soaked in water with a little molasses. If the number of feral pigs turning up to feed increases, increase the amount of grain being put out.
Introduce the bait station away from dams, wetlands and water courses. Peg it down securely and free feed from it with the lid locked open and set a motion sensor camera on it. We banged in a picket to measure the pigs height. This gave us an indication of the age and size of the feral pigs. Wear rubber gloves as the pigs will be slobbering over the bait station. Feral pigs carry disease and pathogens such as Phytophthora cinnamomi, which causes plant dieback.
Free feed, from the bait station, for at least two more days. From the photos on the camera, you will begin to recognise individual animals!
Lower the lid and free feed from the bait station for another two days.
At this stage the feral pigs have been visiting the area for about a week. Depending on the mobs number and with the continued ploughing by the pigs, this area will will become horrifyingly devastated! Stay on course. Keep your wits about you as the feral pigs have already learnt what time and where to expect a meal! They are incredibly dangerous animals.
The bait station is designed to hold in place the placebo and toxin bait packets with a metal frame screwed down with wing-nuts. Put enough placebo bait packets in the bait station. One packet per four to six large feral pigs. One station will hold six packets. With the bait station lid down, observe on the camera that the pigs eat the placebo bait. This may take another day or two but once they consume the placebo bait, immediately move onto the toxin bait.
Finally place enough toxin bait packets in the bait station with the lid down.
From camera observations you will soon see which animals consumed the toxin bait. The number of photos on the camera will be greatly reduced!
Decommission the bait station by removing all toxin bait packets and sealing them in a plastic bag or drum and dispose of following disposal instructions.
Scrub down the bait station with water. Search the area paying particular attention to dams, wetlands and watercourses. The dead feral pig bodies will be within 50 - 200 metres from the bait station. Leave the bodies to decompose.
Success in managing feral pigs on your property requires the collaboration of neighbouring property holders and the use of various techniques. Baiting, trapping, hunting with rifles and hunting with dogs. Exchange of information and observation is in everyones interest. We send a group email to all neighbours and interested parties including Local Land Services to alert and inform people that feral pigs are in the area. We also send out email updates during a baiting program. For control and management, at least 75% of the sounder or mob of feral pigs needs to be destroyed.
After a baiting program we use the services of a hunter who hunts with dogs. Being a Land for Wildlife property we had reservations having dogs running through the bush. We were won over by the skill, dedication and commitment of this reputable hunter. The dogs are highly trained to specifically hunt feral pigs. The use of a hunter is to 'clean up' any stray pigs that did not consume any toxin bait.
In one particular camera observation we noticed the sows were keeping the young boars away from the bait station. These boars had not learnt to eat any placebo or toxin bait. After that baiting program the hunter successfully killed these animals.
Check the credentials of the hunter. Accreditation, insurance etc. A recommendation from a trusted source is a good start. There are people who will just turn up asking to hunt! These, so called hunters are to be avoided.
The control of feral pigs is a dirty and dangerous business, physically and psychologically. It's also time consuming. A baiting program is well worth the results.
It is important to follow up on any feral pigs that may be left behind. A qualified and responsible hunter seems the best solution for this.
By law, you will need to put out signs informing the public when poison bait is being used in the field. We make sure to inform all neighbours.
Understand the process, get some training and follow instructions. It will take patience but it does work well. Include your neighbours to co-ordinate baiting, trapping and hunting. Feral pigs don’t know fenced boundaries.
Local Land Services are a great first stop to get help.
Telephone: 02 6604 1100 Website: https://www.lls.nsw.gov.au/regions/north-coast
Not everything may go to plan! Towards the end of a particular baiting program, one sow was suspicious of the toxin bait and would not consume any except to push it's snout into it! We recommenced the whole process. (Free feeding then placebo then toxin bait.) Again this animal would only press it's snout into the toxin bait. A third baiting proved successful!
We mentioned motion sensor cameras are a valuable tool. Halfway through a baiting program, stray cattle turned up and were very interested in the bait station. At that stage placebo bait was in the bait station and the lid was down. Viewing the photos on the camera, these cattle did not lift the lid. Despite all the information regarding the toxin bait being specific to pigs, we were willing to abandon this particular program and recommence when the cattle were removed. Fortunately the cattle moved out and this particular baiting program resulted in 13 feral pigs being removed from the environment. As an extra precaution, it may be required to put a wire fence around the bait station to keep cattle out.
Timing. A camera will give you an indication of the animals turning up to the bait station and what time they turn up. As mentioned earlier, the pigs learn what time they can expect to be fed. On one particular day, while topping up free feed in the bait station, we missed running into a sounder of feral pigs by 12 minutes! On another occasion a boar that had not been baited was hanging around the dead carcasses and threatened us when attempting to clean up the baiting site! This is the stuff of nightmares! Our hunter removed this animal.
It is advised that any part of a feral pig should not be consumed by human or domestic animals, whether or not they have been baited.
We are happy to help and provide information and answer any questions that you may have. Our member area on this website allows comments and questions or send us an email
A recent ABC Landline episode on the invention of HOGGONE® can be viewed here;
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