Two sightings of feral pigs in South Australia’s mid-north yesterday have put farmers on edge.
Wild pigs are an environmental pest common in northern Australia but are rarely seen in the south.
The pigs, believed to weigh more than 100 kilograms, were caught and shot by farmers at Carrieton and Caltowie.
Flinders Free Range Pork owner Dan Williams said he was relieved to finally catch the feral pig after it broke into a pen after sensing his sows were on heat.
“I actually [first] saw this pig about a month ago; I nearly threw a bucket of feed on his head and he got surprised and ran away,” he said.
“We spent quite a few hours and another local guy here spent quite a few nights looking for him, and he had a couple of pig dogs and no trace of them, so they’re very elusive.
“Then [yesterday] I was lucky enough to spot him again before I got too close and he won’t be getting in there anymore again.”
A threat to biosecurity
Mr Williams said it was extremely rare for a wild pig to be this far south, and it posed a real threat to farmers’ biosecurity.
“There’s been the odd sighting within 20-30km of Carrieton before maybe once every 12 months, but certainly I don’t think anyone has seen one in our immediate district,” he said.
“For us pig farmers it raises two threats; one is a biosecurity threat of his health status coming into our herd, and also his very poor quality genetics.
“If he got over a couple of sows, his offspring would be pretty much unsalable in the general marketplace because he would look more like a warthog than a pig.
“And anyone familiar with any livestock raising, herd health is of paramount importance, and he could be carrying any number of diseases which we certainly don’t want anything to do with.”
Only 100km away in Caltowie, farmer Anne Hammat also caught and shot a wild pig that was sighted in a nearby quarry.
Her son Daniel Hammat, who also runs the family farm Baderloo Poll Merinos, said it was a real concern for farmers should a colony of pigs establish in the Flinders Ranges or nearby forests.
“The pigs are really damaging for lambing ewes and live lambs and also very destructive to the vegetation,” he said.
“There’s certainly some thick country up in the hills and areas they can colonise quite easily and there’s plenty of area with feed, water and shelter like forests which are hard to access.
“If wild dogs and pigs did both colonise the area, it would be a real struggle to get rid of them.”
Possible deliberate release
Natural Resources Northern and Yorke region technical and compliance officer Grant Roberts said the origin of the pigs was unknown, but in the past there had been reports of deliberate releases.
“We’ve had other sightings obviously in the northern areas, but the sightings we’re talking about here are probably becoming a little bit consistent just lately,” he said.
“[But] also some of the sightings and destruction of the odd feral pig in the southern areas has been attributed to deliberate release, where people have selfishly brought pigs into the area and released them for future hunting purposes.”
Mr Roberts said it was an offence under the Natural Resources Management Act to knowingly release a declared pest in South Australia.
“And if the NRM authority incurs costs to recapture or destroy the animals, the people that are found to release them are also potentially liable to repay that cost as well.”
Future management of the pest
Mr Roberts urged members of the public to contact their local Natural Resources branch with any feral pig sightings, so officers could respond with an appropriate management plan.
“The board and our staff have been collating information and reports from the public, so we can gauge what is happening and what communities we need to deal with to try and work on the problem,” he said.
“And it’s important for people to be aware if an exotic disease was to be present. It poses biosecurity risks to landholders and their properties.”