A PROJECT to detect feral pig populations throughout the State uses thermal sensors attached to aircraft and drones to get a more accurate picture of numbers and locations of the declared pest.
The Department of Agriculture and Food, in partnership with Murdoch University and the Department of Parks and Wildlife, has started the operational trial with a $380,000 Federal grant through the national Control Tools and Technologies for Established Pest Animals and Weeds Program.
Department development officer Peter Adams said wild pigs lived in forested areas throughout the South West and particularly in the Harvey area and did not need much shelter.
“It is difficult to estimate numbers as the density and distribution of the feral pig population change with the season,” Dr Adams said.
“It does not take high numbers to impact on agriculture and the biodiversity – as little as one pig can cause a huge problem.
“A conservative estimate puts the average production loss to agriculture at $4.6 million every year in the South West alone.
“Feral pigs can grow up to 100kg and eat about everything from plants to animals such as lizards and frogs, threatening a wide range of species.
“They impact on water quality if near waterways and can carry or transfer a range of diseases.”
Dr Adams said because pigs were a declared pest landholders were responsible to control them on their own land.
The two-year project will evaluate a range of methods to increase the information value and safety and reduce the costs of assessing population numbers.
“A monitoring tool will be developed which will be able to evaluate the success of feral pig control programs as well as identifying existing population densities and detecting increases in abundance or range expansions,” he said.
“These actions are crucial to ensuring that management groups are as well informed as possible and that control strategies are appropriate for the feral pig issues at hand.”
Dr Adams said the next step would be controlling pig numbers through community-driven groups such as the Peel-Harvey Biosecurity Group to provide a coordinated approach.