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Stage 2 Report: Review the effectiveness of the options identified in stage one; identify and prioritise gaps in existing knowledge; provide recommendations for future research.
Brendan Cowled and Steven Lapidge
Pest Animal Control Cooperative Research Centre, July 2004
- The aim of this Stage 2 report is to review the effectiveness of feral pig control options identified in Stage 1 report. This review includes a special emphasis on the effectiveness of each control option in managing feral pigs for the protection of threatened species and ecological communities. Furthermore, gaps in existing knowledge concerning the effectiveness of feral pig control options have been identified and prioritised, and recommendations are provided as to areas of future research that will address those gaps identified.
- The impact of feral pigs on conservation outcomes needs to be quantified in order to justify the application of feral pig control methods in environmentally sensitive areas and to allow the auditing of these control methods for effectiveness. The use of cost-benefit models based on agricultural production systems to strategically manage feral pig control programs has limited use to managing the impacts of feral pigs on conservation outcomes. Therefore the use of cost-minimisation and benefit-maximisation approaches and interactive models in feral pig control are more appropriate to conservation situations. The use of monitoring during control programs can allow the extrapolation of a relationship between feral pig density and damage.
- In the absence of definitive information regarding the impact of feral pig populations on conservation outcomes, and the overall ability of control methods to reduce these impacts, a number of parameters can be used to estimate the effectiveness of feral pig control methods.
- Efficacy of control (at reducing feral pig populations)
- Control method efficiency (costs)
- Target specificity (ability of the control method to control feral pigs without impacting on non-target species)
- Logistical practicality.
- Controlling the impacts of feral pigs on conservation outcomes will require that simple measures of feral pig abundance are utilised by land managers and that simple feral pig impact assessment measures are available for use by land managers and are applicable to a particular region. This will ensure that feral pig control measures are applied effectively.
- Ground baiting is an accepted means of reducing feral pig populations across large areas in a cost effective manner. Potential non-target impacts during feral pig baiting campaigns in conservation areas have not been fully elucidated. The method is also generally limited to areas with reasonable road access. The availability of a ‘take home’ toxin for use by private land managers will have an unknown effect on conservation outcomes.
- Aerial baiting is potentially a cost effective and efficacious means of controlling widespread and remote feral pig populations. However, research to investigate non-target impacts and improve the efficacy of the method is required. Increased efficacy will require refined baiting strategies.
- Fencing can be used to eliminate feral pig impacts. However, the method is expensive and logistically difficult and should generally be confined to small valuable areas.
Ongoing maintenance requirements can be high. Fencing will potentially reduce the ease of movement by some terrestrial vertebrates but the non-target impacts of fencing have not been quantified. Fencing can improve the efficacy of other methods of control since it can prevent reinvasion and re-establishment of feral pig populations.
- Trapping can produce large decreases in feral pig populations in localised areas and is generally target specific. The methods main drawbacks are that it is relatively expensive (high labour requirements) to apply across large areas and is logistically difficult and cannot be used in remote situations. New technology, such as shape recognition trapping may improve the applicability of this method. Research is required to assess the applicability of trapping to broad-scale feral pig control.
- Aerial shooting is a method which can deliver rapid and large reductions in feral pig numbers across extensive areas in appropriate habitats, including remote locations. It is highly target specific and is cost effective. The main disadvantages are that the method is not applicable to all habitats and is expensive when feral pigs are in low densities.
- The Judas pig method can improve the effectiveness of other control methods by allowing the targeting of control procedures to areas where feral pigs are present. However, it is expensive, and is generally not applicable to reducing feral pig populations in high densities.
- Snaring is not an acceptable means of controlling feral pigs in Australia since it is not target specific.
- The ability of hunting and harvesting to reduce feral pig impacts on conservation outcomes is unknown. However, the method is generally inexpensive to apply since hunters and harvesters will often volunteer their time. The method may be difficult to apply in remote areas and can result in feral pig translocations. The non-target effects of hunting and harvesting have not been researched (escape of hunting dogs, feral pig translocations), but if conducted responsibly they should be low.
- Biological control may be an effective means of controlling feral pig populations in Australia. However, the non-target impact (on the commercial pig industry) will be unacceptable.
- The application of combined methods of feral pig control in an integrated approach has been advocated as a means of improving the effectiveness of control programs. However, the order of application, intensity of application and the most effective combinations of control methods are unknown.
- Elimination of feral pigs from mainland Australia is almost certainly impossible using current technologies and resources. However, the effective reduction of feral pig impacts may require the targeting of feral pig control efforts to areas of overlap between feral pigs and threatened species, the application of effective broad-scale control methods and localised eradications.
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