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Ezekiel Martin
Ezekiel Martin

Definitely Not That Pig

"Oh they definitely have poor eyesight," explained Hart. "You could be out walking one evening and see a group of javelina that start moving closer to you and you think 'I'm about to be charged.' Probably not: They smell you but they can't see you. They're trying to get closer so they can see."

definitely not that pig

"The youngsters are known as reds, because of their red or tan color," Hart said. "They lose that in about three months. But like mothers everywhere, javelina moms will react very instinctively to a perceived threat to their youngster."

In Europe and Asia, predation by natural predators can account for up to 25% of annual mortality at the population level (16). In the United States, however, humans are the most significant predator of wild pigs (5). Though predators such as coyotes (Canis latrans), bobcats (Lynx rufus), and golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) may opportunistically prey upon immature wild pigs; it is only where wild pigs exist with American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis), mountain lions (Puma concolor), and black bears (Ursus americanus) that any frequent intentional predation of the species may occur (17-19). Even where this type of predation does occur, it plays a minor role in wild pig mortality (5).

The age at which reproductive maturity is reached is highly variable among populations of wild pigs (20). Males have been documented to reach sexual maturity by five months of age and have been observed attempting to breed at six months. However, breeding success is strongly correlated with size (20, 21). Thus, males are not typically successful in breeding until 12 to 18 months of age (18). Reproductive maturity has been documented in female wild pigs as early as three months of age, though successful first breeding is generally reported to occur between the ages of 6 and 10 months (18, 22). As with males, female reproductive maturity is also correlated with size. Researchers have found that females did not reach reproductive maturity until they reached approximately 100-140 lbs (22).

Pigs have the highest reproductive rate of any ungulate; but like reproductive maturity, it is highly variable among populations (23-25). Females (sows) have multiple estrous cycles annually and can breed throughout the year with an average litter size of 4-6 young per litter (5). The average gestation period for a sow is approximately 115 days and they can breed again within a week of weaning their young, which can occur approximately one month after birth (26, 27). Though it is a physiological possibility for a sow to have three litters in approximately 14 months (28), researchers found that in southern Texas adult and sub-adult sows averaged 1.57 and 0.85 litters per year, respectively (25). Birthing events can occur every month of the year, though most wild pig populations exhibit prominent peaks in birthing events that correlate with forage availability (25, 29) with peaks generally occurring in the winter and spring months (30). In areas where forage is not a limiting factor, such as lands in cultivation or where supplemental feeding for wildlife is common practice, reproduction rates can be higher than average (31).

Wild pigs are omnivores, generally categorized as opportunistic feeders, and typically consume between 3% and 5% of their total body mass daily (32). They exhibit a generalist diet consuming a variety of food sources which allows them to thrive across a wide range of environments (1, 10, 33). Throughout their range their diet is mostly herbivorous, shifting seasonally and regionally among grasses, mast, shoots, roots, tubers, forbs, and cacti as resource availability changes (4, 30, 34). When available, wild pigs will select for agricultural crops, often making up over 50% of the vegetative portion of their diets and causing significant damage to agricultural fields (35, 36). Invertebrates are often consumed while foraging for vegetation throughout the year including insects, annelids, crustaceans, gastropods, and nematodes (37). Studies have shown that, in some cases, invertebrates are highly selected for and seasonally make up over 50% of wild pig diets (38, 39). Wild pigs will also consume tissues of vertebrate species through scavenging and direct predation (37, 40, 41). Studies have documented intentional predation of various vertebrate species by wild pigs including juvenile domestic livestock, white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) fawns, ground nesting bird nests (Galliform sp.), and various species of reptiles and amphibians (41-43, 97, 98).

Wild pigs have been listed as one of the top 100 worst exotic invasive species in the world (44). In 2007, researchers estimated that each wild pig carried an associated (damage plus control) cost of $300 per year, and at an estimated 5 million wild pigs in the population at the time, Americans spent over $1.5 billion annually in damages and control costs (45). Assuming that the cost-per-wild pig estimate has remained constant, the annual costs associated with wild pigs in the United States are likely closer to $2.1 billion today (10, 11, 45).

Most damage caused by wild pigs is through either rooting or the direct consumption of plant and animal materials (5). Rooting is the mechanism by which wild pigs unearth roots, tubers, fungi, and burrowing animals (5, 46). They use their snouts to dig into the ground and turn over soil in search of food resources, altering the normal chemistry associated with nutrient cycling within the soil. Further, the mixing of soil horizons that often accompanies rooting by wild pigs has also been shown to alter vegetative communities, allowing for the establishment and spread of invasive plant species (33). It has been estimated that a single wild pig can significantly disturb approximately 6.5 ft2 in just one minute (47). This large-scale soil disturbance can increase soil erosion rates and have detrimental effects to sensitive ecological areas and critical habitats for species of concern (41, 48, 49). When wild pigs root or wallow in wetland or riparian areas, it tends to increase the nutrient concentration and total suspended solids in nearby waters due to erosion (48, 50).

Economically, wild pigs have the greatest impact on the agricultural industry in the United States (2). In 2005, researchers estimated that in a single night, one wild pig can cause at least $1,000 in damages to agriculture (53). In Texas, a 2006 publication reported that wild pigs caused approximately $52 million in agricultural damage annually (54). More recent studies published in 2016 and 2019 estimate that the annual loss to agriculture in Texas is approximately $118.8 million (95, 96). Impacts to crops are not limited to direct consumption. Trampling of standing crops and damage to soil from rooting and wallowing activities account for 90-95% of crop damage, in some cases (55). Standing crops are not the only form of agriculture damaged by wild pigs. Wild pigs also cause damage to hay fields, orchards, farming equipment, and fences.

The human population of the United States is rapidly growing, and the majority of that population lives in urban areas. In general, the resulting expansion of urban sprawl has increased human-wildlife interactions (62). That trend along with the recent population growth and range expansion of wild pigs has resulted in an increase in damage to private property and common recreational areas (5). Wild pigs often seek out food and water in residential areas during times of drought which leads to damage of landscaping, fencing, and irrigation systems in residential areas as well as communal areas such as golf courses and parks (5, 63, 64). In addition, wild pig-vehicle collisions can result in significant property damage as well as human injury and death (56). Researchers conservatively estimated damages associated with wild pig-vehicle collisions to be $36 million annually in the United States alone (67). Because projections show rapid expansion of both human and wild pig populations the frequency of wild pig-vehicle collisions will likely increase, as well (65). Not only do wild pigs physically damage natural resources and agricultural crops, personal property, and equipment, they also have a high potential to transmit various diseases to domestic livestock (56).

Dispatching after trapping is the most popular method of lethal control for wild pigs (69). There are a wide range of trap designs for wild pigs, but they generally fall under two categories; box traps and corral traps. Box traps vary in design, but are typically enclosed traps that are designed to be easily transportable and set up by one person. These types of traps are most effective when used to target small groups or single animals that frequently cause property damage. The small box traps facilitate transportation from one trap site to another, but limit the number of animals that can be caught at one time. If used to target large sounders, those that are not successfully trapped may develop learned behavior which makes them more difficult to trap in the future (68).

Efficacy of trapping whole sounders has increased with recent advances in remote camera technology. These motion activated cameras can be used to monitor wild pig activity at trap sites with still photographs or short videos. The most recent advancement in remote camera technology allows real-time monitoring of wild pig activity on your phone, tablet, or computer using cellular data. Understanding wild pig behavior at a trap site allows trappers to make more educated decisions on when to set the trap trigger so that the number of wild pigs caught is maximized. In addition, the same cellular technology that allows for real-time camera monitoring has facilitated the advent of remotely triggered trap gates. This allows for trappers to monitor wild pig activity on a personal device in real time and trigger the trap gate remotely from the same device once the entire sounder has entered the trap. Though trapping is one of the most effective means of large-scale population reduction currently available in the United States, its impacts are often limited by the inability to deploy traps in remote areas difficult to reach by vehicle or boat (68, 72). 041b061a72


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