Imagine knowing you’ve captured a whole batch of feral pigs while you’re home watching TV at night, without driving out to continually bait traps and then set them, and having confidence that you’ve corralled the whole mob.
That was the concept showcased at a recent field day by Desert Channels Queensland at the Longreach Pastoral College, with US-based “hog-hunting” specialists, Jager Pro.
The remote telemetry system has so far only been used in coastal situations, by local governments ranging from Hinchinbrook to the Gold Coast, but the presenter, Nigel Kimball said he was looking forward to seeing what the remote telemetry system could do in a pastoral area.
“Our current capture record in Australia is 56 pigs in one night, near Maleny,” he said.
Since 2011, Desert Channels Queensland has destroyed 35,796 pigs, mainly through aerial shooting, in the lower part of its operational area centred around Cooper Creek, the Diamantina River and Farrars Creek.
“Due to drought and the success of the project, the focus has turned to a greater emphasis on ground control,” regional Landcare officer, Doug Allpass said.
“Currently, landholders undertake ground shoots with follow-up aerial shoots when the monitoring sites show increases in population numbers.
“The idea of this workshop was to expose landholder and managers to emerging technology which may have a place.”
He said now would be a good time to follow up, while pig populations were lower in number and while they were hungry.
One of those attending, Ilfracombe’s Rodney Shannon, said with lambs on the ground he was keen to be using all methods at his disposal to keep on top of feral pigs.
“They operate in a group – I suspect you could trap more than you could bait,” he said.
“I’ve been looking into these systems for a while now and the field day gave me a lot to think about in terms of dispensing feed, about shutting gates quickly and about remote monitoring.”
He said he would want to test the Buckeye Cam system for areas without mobile coverage, expressing reservations about the possibility of images “bottle-necking” or not relaying quickly.
Nigel, who is the principal environmental scientist with Yarramine, the group promoting the feed station, 10m diameter enclosure, telemetrically triggered guillotine gates, and cameras, said both the mobile and non-mobile phone versions had been tested successfully by local government users in hilly blackspot areas.
“The Buckeye version is compatible with satellite,” he said. “It’s been on the market for a year, and obviously in Australia, if we couldn’t get it to work in areas without mobile coverage, we’d be missing out on large parts of the country.”
He said the system’s benefits included being able to watch pig activity remotely via the cameras, its portability, and greater confidence surrounding the removal of the whole mob, to prevent the education of ones left out.
A 44 gallon drum contains the feed that lures the pigs into the trap, and can be set to automatically throw feed out at the same time each day.
Once pigs are conditioned to expect a meal at a certain time, and with cameras watching for optimal timing, an operator manually triggers the gate to drop down, either from their phone or computer.
“You can give 22 commands, such as turning the camera on or off, adding email addresses, and to monitor multiple sites,” Nigel said. “It’s entirely manual, not set up with trip wires or anything.”
He said it would take two men around an hour and a half to set up, with custom weldmesh units able to bend and flex to spread the pressure of angry trapped pigs.
A subscriber-based portal manages camera images and there are a range of power solutions for the gate.
Nigel described it as more cost-effective than other trapping methods, and said it eliminated the capture of non-target species.
Total cost of a trapping system, including mesh and freight is between $7500 and $8000, and just the trapping system is around $5500.