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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:

Wildlife Research 32(4) 297-304
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.


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