Feral Pigs

The feral pig in Australia is a descendant of various breeds of Sus scrofa, the domestic pig. The pig was first introduced into Australia by the First Fleet in May 1788 when 49 pigs were brought into Sydney as a food source. Pigs were subsequently allowed to roam and by the 1880s had run wild in NSW

Feral pigs vary in size, shape and coat colour. Differences are inherited from the various breeds which initially escaped or were released into the wild. Black is the most common coat colour for feral pigs, however, a high proportion of them are rusty red and are mixed colours including white, light ginger, brown and white, brown with black spots, brindle and agouti (brown or black with a lighter tip).

Some piglets are marked with dark longitudinal stripes, which disappear as they grow older, and some boars develop a crest or mane of stiff bristles extending from their neck down the middle of their back, which stands straight on end when the animal is enraged.

Pigs have small eyes and poor eyesight. Their senses of smell and hearing are well developed.

Continuously growing canine teeth (tusks) of adult male pigs are large and protrude from the sides of the mouth. The lower tusks curve upwards and backwards, forming an arc. Their total length is up to 30 cm but up to 80 percent is embedded in the lower jaw. The upper canines are considerably shorter; up to 9 cm long. They curve outwards and back functioning as grinders to the lower tusks

Males and females differ in size and weight. Male feral pigs tend to be longer and taller than females, have larger heads and are up to 10-20 kg heavier when one year old. The weight of an average adult female feral pig is 50-60 kg, with males usually weighing 80-100 kg. However, this weight can vary with habitat conditions and exceptional animals have reached up to 260 kg.

The feral pig will feed on almost anything and will switch food preferences depending upon availability. Succulent green vegetation is the food item of choice, however, feral pigs will eat fruit, grain, and a wide variety of animal material such as frogs, fish, reptiles, birds, small mammals, and carrion. Feral pigs are known to predate on lambs and occasionally newborn calves. They will also eat underground plant material such as roots, bulbs, corms, and fungi.

Feral pig activity also has a dramatic effect on watercourses and swamps. By wallowing and rooting around the waterline, they destroy the riparian vegetation which provides food and nesting sites for native wildlife and helps to prevent soil erosion.

Water quality is also affected and their diggings may spread undesirable plant and animal species, and plant diseases in these areas.

They can cause significant damage in agricultural areas. They prey on newborn lambs, compete with livestock for pasture and can damage infrastructures such as fencing and water facilities.

It is also known that they can reduce yields in grain, sugarcane, fruit and vegetable crops, through uprooting and consumption or trampling of plants, and their nature to wallow and defecate can foul dams and waterholes.

The pigs can also transport weeds, and their diggings provide ideal conditions for weed establishment.

Recommended Control

  • Shooting

  • Baiting

  • Trapping