TRAPPERS are adapting their techniques to include new technology to great success in the Chittering Valley.
WA Feral Animal Management owner/operator Andy Lockey said with night vision thermal cameras, and a remotely operated trapping system, he and others, have been able to catch and kill more than 172 feral pigs since February.
From the comfort of his couch Mr Lockey can monitor, via camera, the movements of pigs in and out of the trap, positioned in bushland or on farms, and wait for the moment to trigger the door using his mobile phone.
With an app designed in China, he can be notified of movement in the area, which prompts a viewing with in-home monitors to determine what animals are in the area.
If the animals prove to be kangaroos or other wildlife he can leave the trap alone and wait.
If pigs have entered the cage he can send a signal from his phone to the remote sensor, which can accommodate various coverage networks, and catch an entire family of pigs all at once.
Mr Lockey said this system was better than the old style because previously one pig would trip the cage door and then the others would run off.
With this set up he can allow pigs to become comfortable and relaxed in the environment over a period of days before springing the trap.
He can also leave them in there overnight without them escaping and not have to be on-site all the time.
Known as the Matlock Trapping System, the cage can be altered in size to meet the needs of the job, which can be assessed by mounting cameras in the areas where pigs congregate or travel through.
The door is reinforced and drops down to prevent the pigs escaping.
Mr Lockey said their success in capturing so many pigs was due to hours of research and the accumulation of knowledge about the animals over time.
He said the system was available for purchase for other trappers or feral pest management organisations.
Mr Lockey and Gary Wilkinson, from Wilkos Feral Pest Control, were two of six who were chosen to undertake training as feral technicians, through CY O’Connor, to work with the Chittering Landcare Centre to eradicate pigs in the area.
The program received $25,000 in funding from the McCusker Foundation.
The two operators have been employed to trap pigs in the Chittering Valley since 2013.
Chittering Landcare Centre (CLC) manager Rosanna Hindmarsh said when they first started “they were very successful, capturing over 114 pigs within a three month period”.
“In this period they learnt a lot about the movements of pigs through the valley and trapping,” Ms Hindmarsh said.
“Mr Lockey has developed his traps, which have become better and more sophisticated.”
Ms Hindmarsh said everyone knew pigs were a major problem but there was never enough funding to carry out a sustained program that could entirely rid the valley of the feral pests.
Ms Hindmarsh said people didn’t realise that one sow could have 3-4 litters every two years, with an average of five piglets each time.
She said without continuous funding, the pigs would multiply to the extent that they would move closer toward the Perth area – which was only 25 kilometres away.
She said the CLC had proven it was capable of achieving results and that was important when seeking additional funding.
Former WA Governor, philanthropist and Landcare WA patron Malcolm McCusker said, “we gave support some years ago to the Chittering Landcare Centre in its program to eradicate or at least reduce the feral pig numbers in the Muchea/Chittering valley area where they have become a major problem”.
“They destroy crops, uproot native shrubs, attack and kill young native fauna, and wreak such devastation in bush lands and pastures that in some places you would think that a heavy plough or ripper had been up and down,” Mr McCusker said.
“Apart from the direct impact on the environment, the damage they cause leads to erosion and destruction of native habitat.
“The full extent of this problem does not seem to be appreciated by the relevant statutory authorities, as little is being done by them to address it.
“Despite heroic efforts by Landcare, I understand that feral pig numbers are rising, and their incidence spreading.”
Mr Wilkinson said he still used the old style traps and was successful in capturing 10 pigs in one night last month.
He said when there wasn’t any funding available he would do work for private landholders but they were usually reluctant to spend the money.
By law it is the responsibility of landholders to monitor and eradicate feral pests from their properties.
Ms Hindmarsh said landholders who protected pigs, or ignored them, were causing damage to the natural environment and responsible for the increased numbers.