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Satellite tracking and geospatial analysis of feral swine and their habitat use in Louisiana and Mississippi

June 12, 2012

Feral swine (Sus scrofa) is an invasive species that was first introduced to the continental United States in the 1500s by European explorers. Also known as feral hogs or feral pigs, the animals typically weigh about 200 pounds (up to 400 pounds), have characteristic tusks up to 3 inches long, are territorial, and live in groups, except for the boars, who are solitary and typically interact with sows only to breed. They have an average litter size of 5-6 piglets and occasionally two litters per year, and because they have few natural predators, survival of their young can be nearly 100 percent. Because of the detrimental impacts of this invasive species---including rooting, damaging agricultural lands, competing for food with and destroying the habitats of native animals, and spreading diseases and parasites---many public lands implement feral swine control programs on an annual basis. This activity is not enough to control or prevent an increase in swine populations, however, because of their distribution beyond the boundaries of public lands. Currently, little is known about feral swine populations, their habitat use and movement patterns, and the resulting habitat destruction in Louisiana and Mississippi. To abate this lack of knowledge, researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey National Wetlands Research Center (NWRC)---in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and several large landholding companies---are using collars equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers to track feral swine in Louisiana and Mississippi to examine population movement patterns, document destruction of habitat and wildlife, and help increase and facilitate removal. The NWRC researchers are using the "Judas pig" system of attaching GPS-satellite telemetry collars to select feral swine to (1) track movement patterns on the landscape, (2) document habitat destruction and effects on native wildlife, and (3) improve removal rates. Once a collar has been attached to an individual, usually a large boar or sow, it is released and returns to its group. The group's movements and locations can then be tracked through the movement of the collared individual, the "Judas pig," allowing researchers and managers to better target removal efforts. The use of GPS telemetry will allow the NWRC researchers to monitor feral swine movements daily. The results of this research will provide natural resource managers with more information for managing and responding to the impacts of this invasive species.

Publication Year 2012
Title Satellite tracking and geospatial analysis of feral swine and their habitat use in Louisiana and Mississippi
DOI 10.3133/fs20123083
Authors Stephen B. Hartley, Kathryn A. Spear, Buddy L. Goatcher
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Fact Sheet
Series Number 2012-3083
Index ID fs20123083
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wetlands Research Center