We examine the top ten hog trapping mistakes to understand why most conventional programs fail to eliminate entire feral pig populations from a property. This article will focus on one strategic Integrated Wild Pig Control™ (IWPC™) approach (trapping) for whole-sounder removal. As with any control effort, there are exact methods and technologies which perform better than others.
Hog Trapping Mistakes
Mistake #1 – No Measure of Success
We use a simple equation (people + process + product = performance) to understand, manage and improve our results. Trained people must execute an effective work process using efficient products capable of achieving the stated performance standard. The term “effective” measures the degree to which a desired result is produced and “efficient” measures maximum productivity with minimum waste, expense or effort. The IWPC™ performance standard of “100% removal of the entire sounder spending the least amount of fuel, time and labor” is quantifiable and measurable. Mission failure can be isolated to either untrained people, an ineffective process, an inefficient product or a combination of these variables. Landowners must measure their results to make performance-based decisions. The blog article titled, “Measuring Hog Control Success” covers these 4P’s of hog control in detail while discussing the benefits of measuring performance.
Mistake #2 – Wrong Definition of Success
The performance standard must be established first because success (or failure) is measured against it. The following is an example. We counted a total of 33 pigs at a bait site prior to building the trap enclosure. All but one sow entered the enclosure within 48 hours after erecting the enclosure. The last four animals to arrive both days were pregnant sows. These four adults could have been missed and educated if a traditional trip wire had been used to trigger the gate. Unfortunately, most landowners consider an 88% (29 of 33) capture rate a success. The reality is any performance standard below the 100% kill or capture rate is inadequate and only makes future control efforts more difficult as the remaining pigs become trap-resistant, breed and replenish the population. Wireless technology allowed us to capture all 33 pigs within 72 hours of building the enclosure.
We performed a necropsy and discovered the last four pregnant sows carried 28 fetuses which were only a few weeks from birth. The learning objective to understand is an 88% capture rate would have left the landowner with the same wild pig population in 30 days with four newly educated adult females as the sounder leadership. A pig’s exceptional intelligence, high reproduction and adaptive behavior require equally superior and strategic control measures. For this reason, the IWPC™ performance standard must be “100% kill or capture of each individual sounder.”
Mistake #3 – No Reconnaissance
Landowners must perform reconnaissance and gather intelligence (intel) to document each sounder’s population, travel pattern and behavior prior to selecting the most strategic bait site. Video footage produces higher quality intel in a shorter time span than photos. We position 10 to 15 high-definition video cameras along travel routes and potential bait sites to quickly determine the total number of sounders, total population of pigs within each sounder, number of adults vs. juveniles per sounder and the number of adults totally avoiding a possible bait site or feeder. Only then will landowners have enough intel and data to (1) establish a population baseline to effectively measure the stated performance standard and (2) select the most efficient control process and product to accomplish the mission.
Mistake #4 – Wrong Trap Selection
Traps have emerged in a variety of materials, sizes and shapes. Standard portable box traps are built four feet wide by eight feet long by cutting 16-foot-long livestock panels to size and welding the enclosed tops and bottoms which allows the device to fit inside a standard size truck bed. Another common trap design consists of erecting three livestock panels producing a small, 10 feet diameter enclosure. We do not recommend either design because they are too small to capture an entire sounder. Both trap designs educate survivors to avoid future metal contraptions creating a trap-resistant pig. Small diameter traps are inefficient products to accomplish the stated performance standard.
Mistake #5 – Wrong Gate Selection
Trap gates are manufactured in a variety of widths, sizes and styles. Root, swing and saloon designs are also referred as “continuous catch” gates since they are hinged at the top or side to allow “one-way” entry. Those trusting the continuous catch theory believe any pigs still outside the trap enclosure once the gate has been triggered will continue to push through and enter the closed, one-way gate. However, academic research proves continuous catch gates are ineffective at capturing a substantial number of additional pigs after the gate is closed. Uneducated juveniles are more likely to enter a one-way gate than adults. Continuous catch designs also offer a potential for pigs to escape from the trap enclosure.
Standard gate sizes are built three feet wide by three feet tall. We do not recommend them because trap-resistant adults only feed to the gate but do not cross the narrow threshold into the trap. Narrow thresholds require excessive time periods to condition pigs to enter and are notorious for only capturing juveniles and a small percentage of adults. Trappers cannot accomplish 100% capture results unless the entire sounder is inside the trap enclosure prior to triggering the gate closed. Narrow gate designs are inefficient products to accomplish the stated performance standard.
Mistake #6 – Wrong Panel Selection
Several types of livestock panels are commonly used to build corral trap enclosures. These hog, sheep, goat and cattle panels range in heights between 34 and 52 inches tall, normally 16 feet long and contain mesh openings from two inches apart up to six inches apart. However, most commercial livestock panels are not capable of holding feral pigs. Juveniles escape through the bottom openings while adults jump out over the top. Livestock panels are inefficient products to accomplish the stated performance standard.
Mistake #7 – Wrong Trigger Selection
The two most common gate trigger methods are trip wires and root sticks. They are basically a rope, wire or line connected to the gate and triggered by pigs as they feed or root the ground for bait. Those trusting the trip wire and root stick theory believe maximum captures are obtained by heavy baiting at the back of the trap providing enough delay to allow multiple pigs inside the trap enclosure before pigs trigger the gate closed. Trip wires can be triggered by non-target species such as deer, raccoons, squirrels and turkey. Trip wires and root sticks are very time consuming and costly methods as landowners must physically check traps daily (by law) for activity. There is no guarantee of whole-sounder success using trip wires as pigs control when the gate is triggered. A partial sounder captured at dusk will spoil the trap enclosure with scat all night while vocalizing distress to any other pigs on the property. The negative result is a ruined trap location with local pigs newly educated to the trapping process. Trip wires and root sticks are inefficient products to accomplish the stated performance standard.
Mistake #8 – Bait Outside Trap
Hogs should only be rewarded with food after they cross the gate threshold. Typically, higher juvenile-to-adult ratios equate to quicker captures. Most piglets and sub-adults enter a properly constructed trap enclosure during the first 24-hours. Adult sows may need to observe their offspring feeding inside the trap for several days (nights) before trusting the enclosure enough to enter themselves. The goal is to immediately capitalize on their mistake the first time they enter to save fuel, time and labor costs. Baiting outside the trap is an ineffective process to accomplish the stated performance standard.
Mistake #9 – Trapping All Year
Winter months (late December to late March) provide the optimum trapping opportunity as it is the coldest time of year and hogs must burn more calories to stay warm. The fall mast crops of acorns and hickory nuts have been eaten and no other agricultural row crops are planted. It is much easier to bait wild pigs to automatic feeders in the winter than any other season. The IWPC™ winter strategy is to capture entire sounders of juvenile pigs, sub-adults, nursing sows and pregnant sows as they pattern to these supplemental bait sites. This strategy should eliminate 70-80% of the total property population in 90 days when performed correctly. Trapping year round is an ineffective process to accomplish the stated performance standard. Other methods and technologies are more effective during spring planting, fall harvest and summer growing seasons.
Mistake #10 – Hunting or Shooting While Trapping
Pigs should NEVER be shot within 100-acres of a feeder location while conditioning a sounder to a bait site or trap enclosure. Hunting or shooting will change the feeding and travel pattern of the remaining pigs and is a very ineffective process to accomplish the stated performance standard. A landowner should not shoot individual pigs when the stated goal is to remove the entire sounder. Exercise discipline to trap first, then use shooting operations to target any adaptive survivors who avoided the trap enclosure.
Choosing an Efficient Process and Product
Research documents maximum success is accomplished by ensuring all pigs are inside the trap enclosure prior to triggering the gate closed. Landowners must employ larger trap sizes with wider gate thresholds to improve performance. The most efficient design in our research was a 35’ diameter corral trap with an eight-foot-wide threshold designed as a drop gate. Adding a second gate threshold to the enclosure allowed two entrances/exits and improved capture efficiency by 94% over a single gate while reducing man hours to 13-minutes of labor per pig. The most efficient trap panel in our research was portable and contained 18 horizontal bars reaching 70 inches in height. The bottom horizontal bars made it impossible for the youngest piglet to escape. The top four horizontal bars were six inches apart creating 24 inches of visually open space at the top which helped this panel design blend into the night sky from ground level. The 18-60™ trap panel weighs and costs 30% less than a commercial horse panel enabling a single person to erect the very best trap enclosure. A round trap design provided the largest trap area for materials used and there were no corners for the animals to pile up and jump out.
A cellular remote control trigger is the latest innovation for efficient trapping. Photos are transmitted from the M.I.N.E.™ (Manually Initiated Nuisance Elimination) Camera when motion is detected at the bait site and sent to a cell phone. Combining the most efficient trap size, trap shape, gate design, panel design and trigger device to create the M.I.N.E.™ Trapping System demonstrates whole-sounder removals within six days of building the trap enclosure at most bait sites. Non-target species are avoided since a human makes an educated decision to close the gate using a mobile app only when the entire sounder is counted inside the enclosure. This method and technology saves fuel, time and labor allowing 24-hour surveillance without wasting daily travel time and expenses to multiple bait or trap sites.
When “100% removal of the entire sounder spending the least amount of fuel, time and labor” is the stated performance standard, then a 35’ diameter corral trap is more efficient than a portable box trap. An 8’ gate threshold is more efficient than a narrow 3’ wide continuous catch door. An automatic feeder is more efficient than pouring bait from a bucket and a cellular remote control gate trigger is more efficient than a traditional trip wire. Landowners and land managers must measure their capture percentages to make performance-based decisions.