Photo Gallery: See How Feral Pigs Are Raiding Wild Turkey Nests

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And How You Can Stop It

These four-legged demolition teams are literally taking over, damaging nesting and brooding habitat and competing for food sources.

Feral hogs are not welcome on the Randle Farm. Since 2010, our Alabama county’s been a hotspot in their range expansion. We’re in an all-out war with pigs to salvage the habitat and our forage-management efforts. Alarmingly, reduced wild turkey numbers and nesting success have coincided with the pig population explosion.

This is not breaking news. An estimated 5 million feral hogs are rooting their way through 45 states. Damage and control costs exceed $1.5 billion dollars annually. Nature’s “rototillers” impact wildlife, native ecosystems, urban areas, timber and agriculture crops, pollute waterways, spread disease and prey on vulnerable wildlife. Wild pigs are intelligent, prolific and voracious omnivores, devouring just about anything, from rotting carrion to preying on a live fawn. Their hypersensitive snout rivals a whitetail’s, enabling them to find the eggs and young of ground nesters such as wild turkeys and quail. How do we know?

Check out this photo gallery.

Proof PositiveProof PositiveProof PositiveProof PositiveProof Positive

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1 | Proof Positive

Feral pigs compete for food sources with wild turkeys, deer and other wildlife.

Food plots are regular targets for hungry porkers.

The USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services program in Texas completed a project to study feral hog depredation on turkey nests

Twenty-two artificial nests received one egg per day at each site for 12 days. Cameras monitored them for 15 days. Only two of the 22 nests survived. Feral hogs accounted for 25 percent of the depredation events.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

 

Egg EatersEgg EatersEgg EatersEgg EatersEgg Eaters

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2 | Egg Eaters

 

A study at a Texas release site monitored Eastern hens fitted with radio trackers. Nests were located and recorded with a camera. Feral hogs were one of several predators eating the eggs.

[Editor's note: And if that's not enough, this trend had been coming years before . . .]

In 2004, Wes Stone, professor of forage ecology at University of Alabama A&M, conducted a spring study in wild-pig foraging at Bankhead National Forest. Wild turkey embryo remains were found in three of 16 (18 percent) trapped wild pig stomachs.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

Poult ProtectionPoult ProtectionPoult ProtectionPoult ProtectionPoult Protection

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3 | Poult Protection

Pig-control efforts target hogs to protect bugging areas that hens and poults require throughout the summer. 

Our problem can be traced back to a group of trapped wild pigs that were carelessly, and illegally, released on a nearby hunt club in the late 1990s. It began with a trickle of sign and sightings. At first, trapping a wild pig was a novelty. An occasional trespassing pig meant hunting when traditional seasons were closed, plus meat for the freezer. We mistakenly thought we could barbecue our way through any hog invasion.

The first pigs appeared here in May 2004. A sow with piglets was shot in a chufa field. The piglets were not observed again. In 2005 a huge boar trashed a cornfield. Soon there were several sounders plowing their way through food plots and creek drainages. A depredation permit was acquired for night hunting, but the pigs kept coming. Nearby dog hunting pushed new hogs onto our property. The next few years were a land manager’s worst nightmare.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

Pig ExplosionPig ExplosionPig ExplosionPig ExplosionPig Explosion

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4 | Pig Explosion

In short, our “hog control” efforts were an exercise in profanity-laced futility and sleep deprivation. The food plot budget and farm were literally uprooted and pooped on. A neighbor with the same problem joined the fight. Guillotine and push-gate traps were installed. We shot and trapped hogs at every opportunity, combining for a record 250 porkers in 2011.

In 2012 we suspended corn and summer plantings.

The constant pressure of hunting dogs, shooting, monitoring plots and traps, plus destroyed nesting and brooding areas affected the number of hens using the farm. Hatching success dropped. Typically, three or four hens raise poults here each summer. None were observed in 2012 or 2013.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

 

 

Hog WatchingHog WatchingHog WatchingHog WatchingHog Watching

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5 | Hog Watching

Hogs are prolific breeders seeming to multiply overnight. Constant monitoring is required for a successful control strategy.

Desperate, angry and frustrated, we researched for a better plan. At a QDMA Convention seminar Rod Pinkston, owner of Jager Pro Hog Control Systems™, spoke on feral hog control and eradication. Integrated Wild Pig Control™ (IWPC) is a strategic approach using a series of innovative lethal control methods and technologies implemented in a specific sequence based on seasonal food sources.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

 

Turning PointTurning PointTurning PointTurning PointTurning Point

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6 | Turning Point

The Jager Pro M.I.N.E. Trapping System™ installation marked a turning point in the pig war. Realtime monitoring by texted photos provides intel on pigs using the trap.

The gate is closed remotely or via an app from any cell-friendly location.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

 

SuccessSuccessSuccessSuccessSuccess

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7 | Success

Our neighbor installed the system too. From July to October 2016, the trap caught six times capturing 47 hogs. One catch nabbed 30! Two trap-shy hogs were shot. Our neighbor’s tally was higher. Two adjoining landowners also installed the system.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

VigilanceVigilanceVigilanceVigilanceVigilance

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8 | Vigilance

Vigilance is key. 2017 is beginning with the least number of pig sightings and sign in years. Nine turkey hens and a gobbler flock are regularly observed.

Wild turkeys are special creatures. As avid members of the NWTF, that’s incentive enough to stay committed for the sake of these birds.

[Editor's note: Pictured here, writer and photographer Tes Randle Jolly with a wild pig.]

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snake BootsSnake BootsSnake BootsSnake BootsSnake Boots

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9 | Snake Boots

Wear snake-proof boots when trapping hogs. They prey on birds and rodents that are attracted to the bait.

Lessons Learned in the Pig War

Be Proactive — Learn the feral pig status in your state and immediate area. Contact your state conservation department and local enforcement officer. Talk to your neighbors.

Report Illegal Releases — This is a major cause of the feral pig range expansion. ‘Nuff said.

“Know the Enemy” — This ain’t Porky Pig you’re dealing with. Research feral pigs. Attend seminars. Check out the annual Wild Pig Conference.

Good Field Intel — Set up a trail camera outside the trap to capture video of the sounder’s behavior around the gate opening, particularly any trap-shy pigs.

Locate the Trap Site — It's where pigs frequent, but pay close attention to access getting equipment in and hogs out.

Bait — Pre-bait the site using a spin feeder before the trap set up to get hogs comfortable and dependent.

Spin Feeder — Dispense corn an hour before dark from a spin feeder fitted with a deflector to keep corn inside the trap.

Shoot High Up — Dispatch pigs from an elevated position if possible. Use .22 caliber ammo placed midway between the eye and ear base. Remove the pigs ASAP to avoid other hogs hearing or seeing trapped hogs.

Gate Drop — Drop the gate when it’s least likely to disturb or educate other sounders using the site.

 Clean Up — Remove all feces from the trap to expedite the next catch. Blood is not the issue.

Time Management Check — Check batteries, feeder level, and inspect the trap at each visit and only when necessary to reduce human scent.

Commitment — Mandatory long-term expense and time commitment. Once established, wild pigs are nearly impossible to eradicate. Fact: your free time and management budget will suffer.

Patience Catches More Pigs —Overconfident, we closed the gate on a sounder’s first visit. One pig was trapped, nine more instantly educated.

Form a Cooperative — The more linked property dedicated to sounder eradication, the better. Our cooperative’s goal is to make every effort to achieve total sounder elimination using every legal method available.

Protect Turkey Habitat — Avoid trap placement near known turkey nesting and brooding areas.

Snakes Will Visit Your Trap — As mentioned above, corn attracts birds and rodents, common prey for snakes. Step on a rattler once and you’ll learn like I did. Survey the area at each visit and wear snake-proof boots!

Daily Pig Journal — This can’t be stressed enough. There’s so much intel to digest. Record sounder intel — number, age class, sex, behavior, travel habits and visiting times. It will help you see the big picture and devise workable strategies for each control situation. Include detailed kill records to measure long-term success.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

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