The same technology can also tell us a lot about another interesting creature: the feral hog.
Last week, the founder of one of the most successful hog control companies — Jager Pro, based in Columbus, Ga. — shared some of the behavioral research that helps his crews kill more than 1,500 hogs each year.
“We do a lot of research and development,” said Rod Pinkston, whose military-style approach to eradicating entire colonies of nuisance hogs employs video surveillance, remote controlled traps and rifles fitted with thermal imaging or night vision scopes.
A trapping program designed to concentrate, gradually acclimate – and eventually capture and kill – entire “sounder” social groups of hogs has proven successful and is now in use in 11 states, he told farmers and landowners during a presentation at Millhaven Plantation in Screven County.
“We’ve been doing a lot of testing on how hogs react in Texas versus Alabama or some other state,” he said. “To be successful, you’ve got to be smarter than the enemy.”
Research has shown that inefficient trapping methods, such as small traps that catch only one or two hogs, lead to avoidance education of adult hogs and continued expansion of the unwanted population.
“Our standard is to capture 100 percent of the entire sounder group,” he said.
A program called M.I.N.E. (Manually Initiated Nuisance Elimination) has been devised to capture large groups of hogs simultaneously, he said.
The equipment includes a large corral trap more than 30 feet in diameter, re-enforced fence panels and – most importantly, an eight-foot-wide gate developed from research that found narrow gates prevent keep trap-shy hogs from entering.
The capture requires patience — and involves the use of video monitors to identify the number of pigs in the colony, and then determine when all of the hogs have entered the gate.
That process, Pinkston learned through studying hundreds of hours of feral hog videos, can take several days – even a week.
“Adult sows in particular are hardest to fool or trap,” he said. After a number of nights spent outside the enclosure watching other hogs feed without being harmed, they will eventually venture inside, allowing the trap to be sprung.
Other findings show the best time to trap entire colonies is during the colder months – December to March – when food is scarce and hogs are easier to concentrate.
Boars, including nomadic bachelor groups with multiple animals, are mostly nocturnal and can be resistent to traps, he said. They can be removed with rifles and night-vision scopes, however.
The spread of feral hogs will always be a challenge to control, he said, and one of the biggest problems involves people who catch feral pigs with dogs and then sell them.
Such illegal relocation can re-establish the pests in areas where they have been removed.
Landowners who lease property to hunting groups, he added, should word their leases to make sure hog control measures can be taken as needed, even on land leased by a hunt club.
He also hopes Georgia will enact tougher laws to control the spread of feral hogs.
“There should be no transport of feral hogs allowed,” he said. “It should be a felony, 12 months in jail, a $5,000 fine – and it should be enforceable by all law enforcement officers and allow confiscation of equipment.”
The cost of feral hog damage is often difficult to calculate, and can be lost in numbers compiled for drought losses or hail damage. One study in Texas calculated hog damage at $52.7 million in a single year, he said.