A new project co-led by Auburn University researchers addresses the increasing number and distribution of feral swine—animals that cause more than $50 million a year in damage to agriculture in Alabama. The research focuses on measuring the reduction in damage caused by feral swine during the implementation of the Alabama Feral Swine Control Pilot Program.
Through a $450,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, professors Mark Smith, Graeme Lockaby and Stephen Ditchkoff of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences are spearheading the monitoring and evaluation component of the feral swine control program, a cooperative effort led by the Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Committee.
Most Destructive Pest
The program emanated from the National Feral Swine Control Pilot Program established by the 2018 Farm Bill. Smith says the research and Extension objectives from the Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Committee of the grant are twofold.
“First, the principle investigators and several graduate students will focus on measuring the reduction in damage caused by wild pigs on agricultural land during removal operations on select watersheds in the Alabama counties of Baldwin, Escambia, Henry, Houston and Sumter,” Smith says.
The Alabama state office of the USDA Wildlife Services will lead on-the-ground support to conduct wild pig removal. In addition, qualifying landowners will have access to substantial cost-shares on high-tech trapping equipment through the Conservation Incentives Program administered by the Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Committee to further reduce local feral swine numbers.
A Broad Approach To Control
Elizabeth Bradley, a doctoral student under the direction of Lockaby, will draw comparisons in water quality in several watersheds within the project area before and after the wild pigs have been removed.
Working with Smith, graduate student Arielle Fay will use an unmanned aerial vehicle to measure the changes in damage throughout the growing season to determine how wild pigs ravage crops.
Another Auburn graduate student, William Green, will interview landowners within the project area to develop whole-farm estimates of damage caused by wild pigs and reductions in crop damage relative to removal efforts.
Online technical training courses, equipment expos, seminars and how-to videos are being developed to address the project’s educational and awareness needs.
Interested landowners can visit alconservationdistricts.gov and follow the link to the feral swine program to enter their contact information to request further details about the program. Additionally, landowners can contact their county’s soil and water conservation district office for more information.
Project partners in this coordinated effort include the USDA Wildlife Services, Alabama Association of Conservation Districts, Alabama Agriculture and Conservation Development Commission, Alabama Farmers Federation, Alabama Wildlife Federation, Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Auburn University and the University of West Alabama.
Written and submitted by Teri Greene, Auburn University.
USDA Invests $11.65 Million To Control Destructive Wild Pigs
USDA is investing $11.65 million in 14 projects to help agricultural producers and private landowners trap and control feral swine as part of the Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program. This investment expands the program to new projects in Alabama, Hawaii, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.
The program is a joint effort between USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
“These awards enable landowners to address the threat that feral swine pose to natural resources and agriculture,” NRCS Acting Chief Kevin Norton says. “The projects we have identified will be key to addressing the feral swine problem.”
Pilot projects consist broadly of three coordinated components: 1) feral swine removal by APHIS; 2) restoration efforts supported by NRCS; and 3) assistance to producers for feral swine control provided through partnership agreements with non-federal partners. Projects are planned to conclude at the end of September 2023.