Game cameras enhance feral hog trapping

Feral hog trapping operations can be greatly aided by the added use of judiciously placed and monitored game cameras. (Photo: Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources)

Every year in southwest Georgia, deer hunters, wildlife managers and like-minded interested parties use motion-activated game cameras to monitor wildlife populations on their properties. The modern technology and ease of use of the game camera has greatly improved hunting success rates, trophy buck harvest, scientific date gathering, and has enhanced the wildlife viewing experience for a large number of people.

“Though the majority of game cameras are most often used by deer hunters and game managers, a number of landowners with feral hogs are increasingly using game-camera technology to improve feral hog trapping success rates,” wildlife biologist Chris Jaworski said. “The cameras make it possible for users to tell how many hogs they are dealing with on their land, how big their traps need to be, where to install the traps, as well as when it is time to set traps for the highest degree of success.”

Feral (wild) hog populations have been on the rise throughout the Southeast for the past several years, and the habitat damage caused by this invasive species of nuisance wildlife is vast. In southwest Georgia, on both private and public lands, the feral hog’s destructiveness is obvious to all who witness it, even the inexperienced wildlife viewer. The wild pig is not subtle in its “trashing” of wildlife habitat, earthen construction, or agricultural crop plantings.

In Stewart County, the Bradley Unit of the Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge is a prime example. Nearly everywhere one walks on this popular deer hunting, duck hunting and birdwatching site the damage is obvious. Even the impoundment dikes are the victims of the pigs’ rampant rooting habit. Couple this with the fact that feral hogs can spread disease, and they (albeit rarely) can be potentially dangerous in a physical sense, as well.

“To control a nuisance species like the feral hog, the scale of the problem must first be determined,” Jaworski said. “To figure out how bad your hog infestation really is, strategically install game cameras at selected sites baited with whole kernel corn, soured corn, or any other foods hogs are known to be attracted to. Check the game cameras in two weeks. Looking at the game-camera pictures will provide photographic evidence of the number, size, and frequency of hogs visiting the bait sites.”

After identifying the scope of the hog problem, use the camera-gathered information to determine how large the hog traps need to be. If small groups of three or four hogs are being seen, a box-type cage trap should be large enough to eliminate or at least control the problem. On the other hand, if there are pictures of large groups with 10 or more hogs, larger corral-type traps constructed using three to five 16-foot horse or goat panels will need to be built to increase the chances of catching the entire herd in one night.

“Using the time-and-date-stamped pictures from the game cameras, construct traps in areas where bait sites are being visited often by hogs,” Jaworski said. “After building the trap, tie the trap door open and bait the trap heavily. Install a game camera to monitor the trap and return in a week or two. Bait the trap again and check the pictures for hogs using the trap.

“Identify the size of the sounders visiting the trap based on number, coloration and gender of the pigs. If there are pictures of all of the hogs in the group entering the trap, it is time to set the trap door. If some of the hogs are not entering the trap or just walking around it, install the camera again and be patient. The goal should be to catch all of the hogs in the herd, so continue to monitor the trap until there are pictures of all of the hogs inside the trap. When that happens, it is time to set the trap. Catching the whole group with one trap-setting eliminates the common problem of the hogs becoming trap-wise.”

Game cameras are readily available in a variety of configurations and costs. Some models use a standard camera flash, while others use infrared technology to illuminate wildlife species at night. Older units utilized a 35-mm film camera, but virtually all current models use a digital camera to take and store pictures or short video clips. The use of game cameras allows 24-hour surveillance of wildlife and the ability to monitor wildlife species, including hogs, throughout the year on a property.

“Using game cameras to monitor your hog traps will decrease the number of times the traps must be visited, which saves time and money,” Jaworski said. The ability to identify the size and number of hogs visiting a trap, as well as when to set the door on the trap, teaches the trapper the most important aspect of hog trapping — patience. By using a game camera and learning to be patient, hog trappers will almost certainly increase their trapping success rates.”

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