Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats

The sociogenetic structure of a controlled feral pig population

Peter B. S. Spencer A C , Steve J. Lapidge B , Jordan O. Hampton A and John R. Pluske A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Murdoch University, Murdoch, WA 6150 Australia.

B Pest Animal Control Cooperative Research Centre, GPO Box 284, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia and Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines, PO Box 318, Toowoomba, Qld 4350, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: P.Spencer@murdoch.edu.au

Wildlife Research 32(4) 297-304 https://doi.org/10.1071/WR04076
Submitted: 8 September 2004  Accepted: 24 May 2005   Published: 5 July 2005


In Australia, the feral pig (Sus scrofa) is a significant vertebrate pest that has an impact on agricultural production, public health and ecosystem integrity. Although feral pigs are controlled throughout much of their range, little is known about the impact that these control programs have had on the social biology, structure and the dispersal of pigs. To begin to address this, we collected demographic data and genetic samples from 123 feral pigs culled during a regional aerial shooting program over 33 pastoral properties in the semi-arid rangelands of southern Queensland, Australia. Sampling was carried out after two years of extensive control efforts (aerial 1080-baiting) and the samples therefore represented a controlled, persecuted population with a bias towards young animals. The analysis of 13 microsatellite loci suggested that females will accept multiple matings, females form loose mobs that appear to be highly dynamic social groups, and males will travel large distances between mobs. These data indicate that feral pigs in this population had a high level of social contact and form a single open population with no evidence of genetic (population) structuring. Such information may be important to integrate into management strategies, particularly the development of contingency plans regarding the spread of wildlife diseases.


We thank M. Derrick, C. Hunter, J. Farrell, M. Wingett, R. Cobon and J. Kennedy (MI Helicopters) for assisting in organisation and collection of samples. L. E. Twigg, three reviewers and the editor made valuable comments on earlier versions. We are also grateful for the USA Department of Agriculture support from the USA Pig Genome Coordination Project (M. Rothschild). This research was supported by the Noorama Bestprac Group, the Australian Government National Feral Animal Control Program, Murdoch University, Macquarie Bank and the WA Department of Conservation and Land Management. This project was approved by the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines Pest Animal Ethics Committee.


Agrawal, A. A. (2001). Phenotypic plasticity and the interactions and evolution of species. Science 294, 321–326.
CrossRef |

Barrett, R. H. (1978). The feral hog on the Dye Creek Ranch, California. Hilgardia 46, 283–355.

Boitani, L. , Mattei, L. , Nonis, D. , and Corsi, F. (1994). Spatial and activity patterns of wild boars in Tuscany, Italy. Journal of Mammalogy 75, 600–612.

Braysher M. , and Saunders G. (2003). PESTPLAN – a guide for setting priorities and developing a management plan for pest animals. Bureau of Rural Sciences, Canberra.

Caley, P. (1997). Movements, activity patterns and habitat use of feral pigs (Sus scrofa) in a tropical habitat. Wildlife Research 24, 77–87.
CrossRef |

Caughley G. , and Sinclair A. R. (Eds.) (1994). ‘Wildlife Ecology and Management.’ (Blackwell Science: Cambridge.)

Choquenot, D. , Kilgour, R. J. , and Lukins, B. S. (1993). An evaluation of feral pig trapping. Wildlife Research 20, 15–22.

Choquenot D. , McIlroy J. C. , and Korn T. (Eds) (1996). ‘Managing Vertebrate Pests: Feral Pigs.’ (Bureau of Resource Sciences: Canberra.)

Crooks, J. A. (2002). Characterizing ecosystem-level consequences of biological invasions: the role of ecosystem engineers Oikos 97, 153–166.
CrossRef |

Dexter, N. (1999). The influence of pasture distribution, temperature and sex on home range size of feral pigs in a semi-arid environment. Wildlife Research 26, 755–762.

Dexter, N. (2003). Stochastic models of foot and mouth disease in feral pigs in the Australian semi-arid rangelands. Journal of Applied Ecology 40, 239–306.

Gabor, T. M. , Hellgren, E. C. , Van den Bussche, R. A. , and Silvy, N. J. (1999). Demography, sociospatial behaviour and genetics of feral pigs in a semi-arid environment. Journal of Zoology 247, 311–322.
CrossRef |

Giles J. R. (1980). The ecology of feral pigs in western New South Wales. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Sydney.

Goudet J. (2001). FSTAT, a program to estimate and test gene diversities and fixation indices (version 2.9.3). Available from http://www.unil.ch/izea/softwares/fstat.html.

Hampton, J. O. , Spencer, P. B. S. , Alpers, D. L. , Twigg, L. E. , Woolnough, A. P. , Doust, J. , Higgs, T. , and Pluske, J. (2004a). Molecular techniques, wildlife management and the importance of genetic population structure and dispersal: a case study with feral pigs. Journal of Applied Ecology 41, 735–743.
CrossRef |

Hampton, J. O. , Pluske, J. R. , and Spencer, P. B. S. (2004b). A preliminary genetic study of the social biology of feral pigs in south-western Australia and the implication for management. Wildlife Research 31, 375–381.
CrossRef |

Holekamp, K. E. , Cooper, S. M. , and Katona, C. I. (1997). Patterns of association among female spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta). Journal of Mammalogy 78, 55–64.

Hone, J. (1990). Note on seasonal changes in population density of feral pigs in three tropical habitats. Wildlife Research 17, 131–134.

Hone, J. (2002). Feral pigs in Namadgi National Park, Australia: dynamics, impacts and management. Biological Conservation 105, 231–242.
CrossRef |

Long J. L. (2003). ‘Introduced Mammals of the World: Their History, Distribution and Influence.’ (CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne.)

Marshall, T. C. , Slate, J. , Kruuk, L. E. B. , and Pemberton, J. M. (1998). Statistical confidence for likelihood-based paternity inference in natural populations. Molecular Ecology 7, 639–655.
CrossRef |

Martinez, A. M. , Delgado, J. V. , Rodero, A. , and Vega-Pla, J. L. (2000). Genetic structure of the Iberian pig breed using microsatellites. Animal Genetics 31, 295–301.
CrossRef |

Mitchell, J. (1998). The effectiveness of aerial baiting for control of feral pigs (Sus scrofa) in north Queensland. Wildlife Research 25, 297–303.
CrossRef |

Morrison, S. F. , Keogh, J. S. , and Scott, I. A. W. (2002). Molecular determination of paternity in a natural population of the multiply mating polygynous lizard Eulamprus haetwolei.  Molecular Ecology 11, 535–545.
CrossRef |

Nei, M. (1978). Estimation of average heterozygosity and genetic distance from a small number of individuals. Genetics 89, 583–590.

Olsen P. (1998). ‘Australia’s Pest Animals. New Solutions to Old Problems.’ (Bureau of Resource Sciences: Canberra.)

Pech, R. P. , and Hone, J. (1988). A model of the dynamics and control of an outbreak of foot-and mouth disease in feral pigs in Australia. Journal of Applied Ecology 25, 63–77.

Pech, R. P. , and McIlroy, J. C. (1990). A model of the velocity of advance of foot-and-mouth disease in feral pigs. Journal of Applied Ecology 27, 635–650.

Pritchard, J. K. , Stefens, M. , and Donnelly, P. (2000). Inference of population structure using multilocus genotype data. Genetics 155, 945–959.

Queller, D. C. , and Goodnight, K. F. (1989). Estimating relatedness using genetic markers. Evolution 43, 258–275.

Saunders, G. , and Kay, B. (1991). Movements of feral pigs (Sus scrofa) at Sunny Corner, New South Wales. Wildlife Research 18, 49–61.

Saunders, G. , Kay, B. , and Nicol, H. (1993). Factors affecting bait uptake and trapping success for feral pigs (Sus scrofa) in Kosciusko National Park. Wildlife Research 20, 653–665.

Saunders G. , Bunn C. , Eggleston C. , Garner G. , and Henzell R. (2002). ‘AUSVETPLAN, Wild Animal Management Manual – Strategic and Operational Guidelines.’ (Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand.)

Spencer, P. B. S. , and Hampton, J. (2005). Illegal translocation and genetic structure of feral pigs in Western Australia. The Journal of Wildlife Management 69, 377–384.

Spencer, P. B. S. , and Woolnough, A. P. (2004). Size should matter: distribution and genetic considerations for pest animal management. Ecosystem Management and Restoration 5, 231–233.
CrossRef |

Spencer, P. B. S. , Horsup, A. , and Marsh, H. (1998). Enhancement of reproductive success in a social rock-wallaby, Petrogale assimilis (Macropodidae) as revealed by microsatellite markers. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology 43, 1–9.
CrossRef |

Sugg, D. W. , Chesser, R. K. , Dobson, F. S. , and Hoogland, J. L. (1996). Population genetics meets behavioural ecology. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 11, 338–342.
CrossRef |

Sunnucks, P. (2000). Efficient genetic markers for population biology. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 15, 199–203.
CrossRef |

Swinton, J. , Harwood, J. , Grenfell, B. T. , and Gilligan, C. A. (1998). Persistence thresholds for phocine distemper virus infections in harbour seal Phoca vitulina metapopulations. Journal of Animal Ecology 67, 54–68.
CrossRef |

Taylor, A. C. , Cowan, P. E. , Fricke, B. L. , and Cooper, D. W. (2000). Genetic analysis of the mating system of the brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) in New Zealand farmland. Molecular Ecology 9, 869–879.
CrossRef |

Vernesi, C. , Crestanello, B. , Pecchoili, E. , Tartari, D. , Caramelli, D. , Hauffe, H. , and Bertorelle, G. (2003). The genetic impact of demographic decline and reintroduction in the wild boar (Sus scrofa): a microsatellite analysis. Molecular Ecology 12, 585–595.
CrossRef |

Vigilant, L. , Hofreiter, M. , Siedel, H. , and Boesch, C. (2001). Paternity and relatedness in wild chimpanzee communities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 98, 12890–12895.
CrossRef |

Weir, B. S. , and Cockerham, C. C. (1984). Estimating F-statistics for the analysis of population structure. Evolution 38, 1358–1370.

Wilson D. , and Choquenot D. (1996). Review of feral pigs and exotic disease preparedness. Bureau of Resource Sciences, Canberra.

Zenger, K. R. , Eldridge, M. D. B. , and Cooper, D. W. (2003). Intraspecific variation, sex-biased dispersal and phylogeography of the eastern grey kangaroo (Macropus giganteus). Heredity 91, 153–162.
CrossRef |

Rent Article (via Deepdyve) Export Citation Cited By (20)