1070 Pigs Killed in Aerial Cull
A recent cull in the Western Riverina are by the NSW Local Land Services has been declared a success with 1070 feral pigs killed.
With the high expense of aerial culling taking place, it highlights even more that recreational hunters can play a big roll in keeping these numbers down if allowed into these public lands.
The ABC reported the cull focussed on pests roaming near the Murrumbidgee and Lachlan Rivers, areas where the pig population had gravitated to during the dry conditions.
It was a follow-up to the aerial shoot carried out across the same region in November last year when 4,750 feral pigs were
Riverina Local Land Services biosecurity and emergency services manager Michael Leane said the control program was aimed at reducing reproduction rates.
LLS estimated the feral pig population in the western Riverina would have swelled to 2 million in five years if left uncontrolled.
"We are winning the war on feral pigs with data showing a 90 per cent reduction in just six months," Mr Leane said.
Mr Leane said the density of pigs was about 170 pig per square kilometres in November, but that had now reduced to about 10 pigs per square kilometre.
Aerial surveillance from drones and infrared cameras fitted to helicopters was used before, during and after the exercise to determine density.
The LLS pest control program, known as the Western Riverina Pig Project, also involved 44 landholders, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and community groups.
"Landholders are telling us the shoot has made a huge difference on the ground," Mr Leane said.
Woolgrower Fergus McLachlan had been battling infestations of feral pigs on his property Tupra at Hay for decades.
Mr McLachlan and his family had been aerial shooting, baiting and trapping pigs for many years themselves, but welcomed a coordinated approach to battling the pest.
"Before Local Land Services came on board, we could shoot hundreds of pigs on our property one day, and hundreds would arrive the next day from nearby properties that weren't controlling the pest," Mr McLachlan said.
Mr McLachlan said feral pigs had impacted their lamb percentages by up to 40 per cent at times.
"Whether a ewe has mismothered a lamb after pigs have torn through the mob, or the lambs have been eaten, it's irrelevant really as the lambs still dies," Mr McLachlan said.
The drought had forced the McLachlans to reduce their Merino breeders from 19,000 head to 13,000 head and they had been supplementary feeding their sheep with faba beans.
However, it wasn't just the sheep benefitting from the beans.
"A lot of pigs that were culled on our place had beans in them," he said.
Mr McLachlan said 420 pigs had been shot on the property in just three days in 2017, and in 2018 320 pigs were shot in August.
"We will still continue our own ground control with baiting and trapping, but we may not have to do our own aerial control this year," Mr McLachlan said.
While aerial culling had been effective in reducing the bulk of the feral pig population, Mr Leane recognised baiting with 1080 poison and trapping was still needed.
LLS will be supporting landholders and community groups to keep on top of feral pig numbers with ground control over the next 12 months.
"If we get a couple of good seasons with rain, they can breed up quickly, so the focus will be ground control and a follow up shoot if needed," Mr Leane said.
The program was funded by the Federal Government's 2018 Pest and Weed Drought Funding program which ends this month.
"We have come too far just to leave, with pigs down to 10 per cent on what they were three years ago, now is the time to keep going," Mr Leane said.
"We are not going to eradicate them completely, but we don't want those numbers to bounce back."