Bait Preferences of Free-Ranging Feral Swine
Introduced to America in the 1500s, feral swine were not considered a threat until the early 1980s when their populations expanded and their damage increased dramatically. These invasive species are known to contaminate watersheds, damage and eat crops, compete with native wildlife, and transmit diseases. To address this growing problem, NWRC research is focused on the development of a variety of methods and tools, including a new sodium nitrite toxicant bait.
As NWRC researchers and chemists continue efforts to develop and register the toxicant, other NWRC experts are evaluating different oil-based bait mixtures. The goal is to find a mixture that no only masks the salty taste of the sodium nitrite bait so feral swine eat it, but also minimizes the bait’s appeal to non-target species.
“We field tested three different placebo bait mixtures on free-ranging feral swine at 88 sites in south-central Texas,” states Nathan Snow, a research assistant professor with Texas A&M University-Kingsville co-located at the NWRC. The placebo bait mixtures included the following:
Black-colored peanut paste (to make it less attractive to non-targets)
Peanut-based slurry with whole-kernel corn
The uptake of the bait by feral swine and other wildlife was compared to a reference food, whole-kernel corn, known to be readily eaten by feral swine. The amount of bait eaten was also estimated using remote trail cameras and grid boards at five additional sites.
Initially, feral swine did not visit the uncolored peanut paste and peanut slurry mixtures as often as the other bait. This difference eventually subsided, suggesting that feral swine needed time to accept these bait types. Feral swine visited the black-colored peanut paste as often as the whole-kernel corn control bait. They also ate enough of the black-colored peanut paste to have ingested lethal doses of micro-encapsulated sodium nitrite if it had been included in the mixture.
All of the bait mixtures were visited and eaten equally by non-target species, with the most common species being white-tailed deer and raccoons. Researchers note a feral swine-specific bait delivery device will be needed to reduce secondary hazards to these and other species.
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