THE war on feral pigs is far from over despite hopeful claims from Local Land Services (LLS) in the feral-rich Central West district.
Late last month the LLS declared it, along with farmers, were “winning the war on feral pigs” with their aerial shooting program.
However, embattled landholders, many of whom opt not to enlist the services of LLS aerial shooters, said the call was premature because pig populations “are already back to where they were”.
“Three months ago the LLS might have had pig numbers under control but now they’re back in big numbers and doing enormous damage to chickpeas in our area ,” Warren farmer, Michael Egan, “Kiameron”, said.
Mr Egan said the LLS needed to increase the “vigilance” and “consistency” of its aerial shooting program to keep on top of the problem.
Last year Mr Egan wholly funded five aerial culls to keep pigs out of his cotton. He said it was more efficient to hire a private contractor.
“The funding for the LLS aerial culls is piecemeal and ad hoc. Their timing is never right,” he said.
Invasive Animals Co-operative Research Centre’s Jason Wishart said the war on feral pigs will never be won.
“I don’t think we will ever eradicate pigs from mainland Australia,” Mr Wishart said.
Mr Wishart said the LLS had made some big achievements, but regrettably, feral pigs were “here to stay”.
He expected a wave of piglets in six-months time, thanks to recent rain.
“Feral pigs respond very quickly to rain events,” Mr Wishart said.
“An abundance of green grass gives sows the perfect environment to breed in. They can reproduce when they hit 25-kilograms and can have two lots of up to 10 piglets a year.”
He said populations were already sky-high and anyone with crop remaining would be hard-hit in the coming weeks.
This week Central West LLS acting manager for biosecurity Lisa Thomas conceded managing feral pigs across the region was a “constant battle”.
“We can be in-front one week and not the next because populations build up so quickly,” Ms Thomas said.
“Environmental results are as important as the number of pigs culled and we are making big impacts in some areas.”
Ms Thomas said aerial culls were costly and even where funding was available landholders still had to contribute to their cost.
“When we get a stream of funding we try to involve as many people as we can. We have to prioritise areas where the damage will be more significant.”
Hunter LLS senior biosecurity officer Stefanie McCowen said populations in her region were “medium to high”.
“It’s a historic problem and we’ve got excess feed availability right now,” Ms McCowen said.
Ms McCowen said the Hunter LLS had done two aerial culling programs since it was formed in 2014.
“We don’t have plans for any more aerial shoots, we’re concentrating on a ground level approach at the moment.”
Hunter LLS would focus on trapping and baiting.
Western LLS manager of biosecurity David Creeper said feral pig numbers were plaguing farmers in the west, particularly around Booligal and Hay.
“The lignum swamps around the Lower Lachlan River make perfect conditions for feral pigs,” Mr Creeper said.
This week the Western, Riverina and Murray LLS regions joined forces with NSW Farmers to run community workshops in Booligal and Hay to target the problem.
Mr Wishart said feral pigs were appearing in other states where they weren’t before.
“They’re increasing in range and density. We’re now hearing about them in the north of South Australia and in central Victoria were they weren’t previously.”