Pigs are showing up in places where they have never been seen across Victoria. The latest discoveries have suprised farmers and also raised alarm bells.
The Standard reported Basalt to Bay Landcare network facilitator Lisette Mill said two pigs were caught on a camera trap at the 32 hectare St Helens Flora Reserve, west of Warrnambool.
Mrs Mill said the sighting was 20 kilometres from the area where pigs had a previously been seen.
She said, while it was unlikely pigs would continue to be a major threat in the reserve, their discovery had raised the need for a coordinated approach to their control.
“This particular incident has highlighted their mobility and how far they will push into a farming area, if they have places to
hide,” Mrs Mill said.
Parks Victoria said an inspection revealed the pigs had damaged about 300 square metres of the reserve and neighbouring farmland.
Ms Mill said she was encouraged by the swift eradication of the pigs after the sightings.
“We feel this has encouraged a greater investment from a number of agencies – Parks Victoria, the Department of Environment, Water, Land and Planning (DELWP), and Agriculture Victoria – in facing the problems feral pigs can bring, when they occupy new territory,” she said.
Heywood prime lamb and wool producer Stuart Croft has begun exclusion fencing on part of his property, after finding pigs about six months ago.
“While they are not there at the moment, my big concern is that it’s the pointy end of the wedge,” Mr Croft said.
Mr Croft and wife Anja run 11,000 ewes on land at Heywood, Nigretta, Pigeon Ponds and Balranald, NSW.
He said he was also concerned about hunting, which made fellow producers reluctant to speak out.
“Once the word gets out there are pigs in the area, hunters hit them pretty hard and they scatter,” he said.
“They’ll also turn up with dogs.”
Mr Croft said sheep producers were also deeply worried about predation of newborn livestock and biosecurity risks.
“People I talk with are always surprised at how much damage one pig can do,” he said.
“It will tear up half a hectare by itself in a night.”
Janet Nunn, a Tyrendarra prime lamb producer, said the property she ran with husband Wayne backed onto a bluegum plantation, which was now being cut for timber.
She said she recently noticed pigs had caused in one of the paddocks, closest to the plantation.
While the damage was minimal, she said it could have been much worse.
“It shocked me, they can do a paddock in a very quick time,” Ms Nunn said.
“There is certainly activity around.”
She said it had been “a terrible year,” and the costs of having to renovate a paddock due to pig damage would have been very costly.
“This is one of the huge things we need to address, immediately,” Ms Nunn said.
A spokesman for the DELWP said agencies knew feral pigs were having an impact in the area.
“That’s why we’re continuing to work with our agency partners in the far south west to contain pigs to already established locations and eradicate new populations,” the spokesman said.
“A key focus is to better coordinate control work with neighbours because we know the best results are achieved where neighbours conduct simultaneous feral pig control across a landscape, rather than just on individual properties.”
Parks Victoria rangers developed an eradication plan for the St Helens pigs in coordination with Basalt to Bay, neighbouring farmers and DELWP.
Parks Victoria ranger Ben Hammond said the response at St Helens was an exceptional example of the effectiveness of community and government working together to provide benefits that went beyond park boundaries