Context . The feral pig (Sus scrofa) is a widespread pest species in Australia and its populations are commonly controlled to reduce damage to agriculture and the environment. Feral pigs are also a resource and harvested for commercial export as game meat. Although many other control techniques are used, commercial harvesting of feral pigs is often encouraged by land managers, because it carries little or no cost and is widely perceived to control populations.
Aims . To use feral-pig harvesting records, density data and simple harvest models to examine the effectiveness of commercial harvesting to reduce feral-pig populations.
Methods . The present study examined commercial harvest off-take on six sites (246–657 km2) in southern Queensland, and 20 large blocks (∼2–6000 km2) throughout Queensland. The harvest off-take for each site was divided by monthly or average annual population size, determined by aerial survey, to calculate monthly and annual harvest rates. A simple harvest model assuming logistic population growth was used to determine the likely effectiveness of harvesting.
Key results . Commercial harvest rates were generally low (<∼20%) and are likely to provide only modest reductions in population size. Additionally, harvest rates capable of substantial reductions (>50%) in long-term population size were isolated occurrences and not maintained across sites and years. High harvest rates were observed only at low densities. Although these harvest rates may be sufficiently high to hold populations at low densities, the population is likely to escape this entrapment following a flush in food supply or a reduction in harvest effort.
Implications . Our results demonstrated that, at current harvest rates, commercial harvesting is ineffective for the landscape-scale control of feral-pig populations. Unless harvest rates can be significantly increased, commercial harvesting should be used as a supplement to, rather than as a substitute for, other damage-control techniques.