Experts say feral pigs are getting bolder and encroaching on the outer suburbs as a population boom pushes them into more densely populated parts of Queensland.
Pigs have wreaked havoc on landowners in the suburbs within 10 miles of Rockhampton’s CBD, while a sighting at a Gold Coast school in August also raised concerns.
Recent sightings by bush walkers have taken place at Cunningham’s Gap and Cordeaux Mountain in southern Queensland, with high numbers also reported around Dalby in the Western Downs and Drayton on the outskirts of Toowoomba.
Darren Marshall, of the Southern Queensland Landscapes natural resources management organization, said favorable conditions had led to an exceptional breeding season.
“I think we’re going into a very, very bad time for feral pigs,” he said.
“Everywhere we saw, all the sows have lots and lots of piglets on the ground.
The problem is also happening around the world with reports last week that Rome’s burgeoning wild boar population had spilled out of city parks and onto the streets.
Mr Marshall said the pests were getting more and more daring as the competition for food intensified.
“I think people would be amazed at how close they come, in search of this food source, to residential areas,” he said.
“They are at the back of new residential subdivisions.
“And if you are walking in the bush and there is a 60 to 100 kilogram animal next to you, rustling in the brush… that really scares you.”
Hiker Kirsty Sutton, of Gatton, said she saw plenty of evidence of wild pig activity along the Cunningham’s Gap walking trails in Main Range National Park.
She saw one of the animals there for the first time in June.
“I was going down one of the runways and I could hear one… start to approach the runway,” she said.
“I just yelled at it, then started to climb up the side of the mountain as fast as I could.
“I was quite surprised. Because it’s a very busy area, I wasn’t expecting that.”
Australia’s $ 100 million problem
There are currently up to 24 million feral pigs in Australia, according to Biosecurity Queensland; their impacts cost the country’s agricultural sector more than $ 100 million per year.
Rockhampton Regional Council said it had trapped and euthanized around 50 of the animals in recent months, in response to increased sightings near the town.
He said sightings were more common in areas backing onto state parks, including Frenchville, Norman Gardens, Mt Archer and Koongal.
South Burnett Regional Council also said there had been a “significant increase” in pig numbers over the past decade, with the popular Bunya Mountains tourist spot being a particular problem area.
“It wasn’t that long ago that there weren’t any pigs in South Burnett,” Councilor Scott Henschen said.
“As a primary producer, I can definitely say that there is now a problem.
“The landowners have been pretty diligent about this; however, it doesn’t take much and they can multiply quite quickly.”
What is done?
Australian Pork Limited established the National Wild Pigs Action Plan – the first coordinated national strategy to control parasites – with $ 1.4 million in funding from the federal government in 2019.
Stakeholders work with land managers to implement management programs, increase participation in local programs, and undertake planning and monitoring.
The plan calls for the use of a range of methods to control feral pig numbers, including baiting, aerial and ground shooting, trapping and exclusion fencing.
In Queensland, authorities are using $ 25 million from the Queensland Feral Pest Initiative to build cluster fences and implement management programs for a range of invasive species, including pigs.
From a safety standpoint, Darren Marshall said residents or walkers who have encountered a wild pig should give it plenty of room and notify authorities as soon as possible.
“Don’t try to corner them or do anything, but let people know where they are,” he said.
“I have worked with pigs for 15 years and have met a few cranky ones, but most of them just want to get away.
“The best thing people can do is give them space.”