Context. Management of overabundant or invasive species is a constant challenge because resources for management are always limited and relationships between management costs, population density and damage costs are complex and difficult to predict. Metrics of management success are often based on simple measures, such as counts, which may not be indicative of impacts on damage reduction or cost-effectiveness under different management plans.
Aims. The aims of this study were to evaluate the effectiveness of aerial gunning for the management of wild pigs (Sus scrofa), and to evaluate how cost-effectiveness would vary under different relationships between levels of damage and densities of wild pigs.
Methods. Repeated reduction events were conducted by aerial gunning on three consecutive days at three study sites. Using a removal model, the proportion of the population removed by each flight was estimated and population modelling was used to show the time it would take for a population to recover. Three possible damage–density relationships were then used to show the level of damage reduction (metric of success) from different management intensities and levels of population recovery, and these relationships were expressed in terms of total costs (including both damage and management costs).
Key results. Populations were typically reduced by ∼31% for the first flight, ∼56% after two flights and ∼67% after three flights. When the damage relationship suggests high damage even at low densities, the impact of one, two or three flights would represent a reduction in damage of 2%, 19% and 60% respectively after 1 year. Different damage relationships may show considerable damage reduction after only one flight. Removal rates varied by habitat (0.05 per hour in open habitats compared with 0.03 in shrubby habitats) and gunning team (0.03 versus 0.05).
Conclusions. Monitoring the efficacy of management provides critical guidance and justification for control activities. The efficacy of different management strategies is dependent on the damage–density relationship and needs further study for effective evaluation of damage reduction efforts.
Implications. It is critically important to concurrently monitor density and damage impacts to justify resource needs and facilitate planning to achieve a desired damage reduction goal.