Feral pig

Pigs were brought from Europe to Australia by the First Fleet in 1788. Imported as livestock, pigs soon escaped and established wild populations that have expanded over time.

In 2021, it was estimated that Queensland had up to 2.3 million feral pigs. They are among Queensland's most widespread and damaging pest animals. Feral pigs spread invasive plants, degrade soil and water, prey on native species, damage crops and livestock, and carry diseases.

A feral pig is a pig that lives in a wild state and is not being farmed or kept for another purpose. A pig is considered to be farmed or kept for another purpose only if it is in an escape-proof enclosure.

You can support a national feral pig mapping project by reporting feral pig populations.

You must manage the impacts of feral pigs on your land.

You must not move, feed, give away, sell or release feral pigs into the environment.

Look out for signs of emergency animal diseases in feral pigs and report anything unusual to the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888 without delay.

Learn more about emergency animal diseases affecting pigs or visit our eHub.

Scientific name

Sus scrofa

Description

  • Pig species typically smaller, leaner and more muscular than domestic pig, with well developed shoulders and neck, and smaller, shorter hindquarters.
  • Snout and tusks are longer and larger, tail is straighter, ears are smaller and mostly pricked, back is much narrower than that of domestic pig.
  • Body is usually covered in sparse, coarse hair.
  • Coat is usually black, buff, or black-and-white spotted.
  • Generally shy and nocturnal but can be active any time of day.
  • Juveniles may be striped, while old boars (razorbacks) have large heads and shoulders, and raised, prominent backbones.

Habitat

  • Inhabits about 40% of Australia, from subalpine grasslands to monsoonal floodplains.
  • Greatest concentrations are in larger drainage basins, and swamp areas of coast and inland.

Distribution

  • Found in most areas of Queensland.

Life cycle

  • Females and juveniles usually live in small family groups.
  • Adult males are typically solitary.
  • Produce two litters of 4–10 piglets a year in good conditions.
  • Weaned after 2–3 months.
  • Population, in good conditions, may double in 12 months.

Crops affected

  • Seed, grain, fruit and vegetable crops.

Impacts

Environmental

  • Spreads invasive plants.
  • Degrades waterholes and wetlands.
  • Causes soil erosion.
  • Preys on a wide range of native species, including small mammals.
  • Significantly affects marine turtle populations by eating eggs.
  • Can carry diseases that affect native animals.

Economic

  • Damages almost all crops from sowing to harvest.
  • Feeds on seed, grain, fruit and vegetable crops.
  • Damages pasture by grazing and rooting.
  • Preys on lambs.
  • Can carry diseases and parasites that affect stock.

Social

  • Carries many diseases that affect people.

Natural enemies

  • Wild dogs may take feral piglets.

Control

  • Difficult to control in some situations.
  • Effective control requires integrated, collaborative approach, where all stakeholders participate in planning and implementing management plan.
  • Most effective strategy is to combine various control methods (including shooting, poisoning, trapping and fencing) with appropriate land management practices.

Trapping

  • Trapping is most useful in populated areas, on smaller properties (<5,000ha), and where pig numbers are low. Trapping can be particularly useful in removing survivors from poisoning programs. Trapping is most successful when food resources are limited.
  • Trigger mechanisms for pig traps can be made pig-specific so that they pose little danger to other wild or domestic animals.

Poisoning

  • Poisoning is usually the most efficient and effective way to reduce pig population.
  • Depending on circumstances and bait type, poison bait may be distributed from the air or ground.
  • Sodium fluoroacetate (1080) is recommended but only authorised persons can supply 1080 baits to landholders. Contact your local government agency for more information.
  • Pre-feeding is the most important step in ground poisoning. To maximise effectiveness, free feed pigs with non-poisoned bait for several days before laying poisoned baits.
  • Pig-specific feeding stations (e.g. Hoghopper) help reduce access to bait by non-target species.

Shooting

  • Shooting pigs by helicopter is most effective where pigs exist in reasonable numbers and are observable from the air. Usually too costly for low-density populations.
  • In dry tropics, aerial shooting is the most cost-effective method of control.
  • Ground shooting is generally not effective in reducing pig populations unless intense shooting is undertaken on small, isolated, accessible populations of pigs.
  • Do not shoot in areas before or during poisoning or trapping operations.

Fencing

  • Though expensive, fencing can successfully reduce pig damage. Research has indicated that the most successful pig-proof fences are also the most expensive.
  • The most effective pig-proof fences use fabricated sheep mesh held close to ground by plain or barbed wire and supported on steel posts.
  • Electrifying a conventional fence greatly improves its effectiveness if used before pigs have established a path through the fence.
  • Pigs are known to charge and try to breach an electric fence. Unless fence incorporates fabricated netting, they often successfully breach it.
  • For crop protection or to avoid lamb predation, pig-proof fences must be constructed before pigs become a problem. Once pigs have adjusted to feeding in a particular paddock, fencing may be ineffective.
  • For a fence to remain a barrier to pigs, constant maintenance is needed.

Legal requirements

  • The feral pig is a category 3, 4 and 6 restricted invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014.
  • You must not move, keep, feed, give away, sell, or release feral pigs into the environment. Penalties may apply.
  • You must take all reasonable and practical measures to minimise the biosecurity risks associated with dealing with feral pigs under your control. This is called a general biosecurity obligation (GBO).
  • At a local level, each local council must have a biosecurity plan that covers invasive animals in its area. This plan may include actions to be taken on feral pigs. Some of these actions may be required under local laws. Contact your local government for more information.

Further information