OPINION: The day a wild boar nearly killed me and why we need to go the whole hog to control the wild population

26 June 2024
An article by  Xavier Martin - NSW Farmers President

I have been absolutely flattened by a wild boar, his left tusk passing inches from my eyes.

Even though it was a while ago, it was a heart-stopping moment that’s still fresh in my mind – the boar charged straight at me, knocking me off my motorbike. As I lay there winded, I wondered if he was going to turn around and finish me off. But this harrowing experience isn’t unique; and feral pigs have become a growing concern across the landscape, including in villages and towns.

People often imagine Babe or Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web when they think of pigs. But feral pigs aren’t gentle creatures at all, they are formidable and nasty beasts the size of football players, charging across the countryside with insatiable hunger and a cunning that defies belief. Their intelligence, destructiveness, and threat to people, animals, and the environment cannot be overstated.

Across our vast landscape, feral pig populations are exploding at an alarming rate. Their silent invasion wreaks havoc – they attack lambing ewes and calving cows, often killing both, and people are increasingly being confronted by these relentless creatures in their own yards.

The complexities of this porcine predicament are many, but there is a simple solution provided we have the resources, the will and the time to execute it properly.

When the First Fleet arrived 235 years ago, they brought domestic pigs with them as a source of food. The pigs feasted on native plants and ventured into the bush when they escaped their pens, and over the years they have flourished without any natural predators to keep their numbers in check.

Feral pigs are remarkably adaptable, and they have thrived in Australia’s diverse ecosystems. Their omnivorous diet lets them gorge on insects and small mammals, fallen fruit and carrion, and with each generation they have become masters of survival, entirely shedding their domesticity and multiplying with alarming speed.

The past few years in particular have been a boon for feral pigs, with La Nina conditions creating the ideal breeding environment, and now populations have reached unprecedented levels. These wild, cunning, and relentless creatures roam rivers and plains where they’ve never been seen before, leaving fresh destruction in their wake.

You see, feral pigs reproduce with astonishing speed. Sows can have two litters of 10 surviving piglets every year, completely outpacing our ability to keep their numbers in check. So, when we get a few good breeding seasons in a row, you end up with the exponential problem we’re now seeing.

And the fact of the matter is, unless we cull at least 80 per cent of these animals per annum they will continue to multiply at an ever-increasing rate, rendering our efforts futile.

We know there are some fantastic aerial shooters out there, the sort of crack shots they make movies about, but there’s such an enormous problem the pilots are running out of flying hours and the shooters are literally wearing out their rifles. And once the pigs know there’s a shooter about, they go into hiding, making them much harder to cull.

Baiting and trapping is another tool farmers use, but again we’re up against the wicked cunning of these pigs. We find ourselves constantly challenged to outsmart these animals who have proven so adaptable and resilient.

Every farmer out there in the paddock is doing their best, but we’re really just getting bits of bacon in terms of controlling the population. We need the whole hog across the entire landscape, and that means every farmer, every shire, every public land manager in a concerted effort to hit them hard once and for all.

Because if we keep hitting them with a piecemeal approach, we’ll just be emptying our wallets to then see more pigs move into our paddocks. We need more than brute force. We need a well-funded, comprehensive and ongoing approach that involves habitat management, public awareness, and community collaboration.

Educating the public about feral pig risks is crucial. Responsible reporting and cooperation can make a difference.

Let’s unite—farmers, policymakers, and concerned citizens—to reclaim our landscape from these insidious pests.

In the battle against feral pigs, persistence is our ally. With the right resources and unwavering determination, we can turn the tide and protect what’s rightfully ours.

ADVERTISEMENTS

News that inspires, educates and celebrates life and work in regional Australia.