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When pigs fly: Reducing injury and flight response when capturing wild pigs

Lavelle, Michael J., Snow, Nathan P., Ellis, Christine K., Halseth, Joseph M., Glow, Michael P., VanNatta, Eric H., Sanders, Heather N., VerCauteren, Kurt C.
Applied animal behaviour science 2019 v.215 pp. 21-25
Sus scrofa, animal behavior, drugs, ecology, feral animals, global positioning systems, horses, monitoring, swine, trapping, traps, Texas
Research on the ecology, behavior, and movements of wild pigs (Sus scrofa) often involves immobilization of study animals to attach GPS collars or other monitoring devices. In this process, it is important to minimize stress and injury to study subjects. Challenges in handling trapped wild pigs are common because multiple animals are often captured together, wild pigs exhibit intense fight-or-flight responses, large traps provide space for severe trap-related injuries, and immobilization drugs are less effective on excited wild pigs. We trapped and handled 148 wild pigs in corral traps in TX, USA, and evaluated two trap modifications for alleviating these issues, including: 1) using tightly spaced wire mesh for trap walls, and 2) enshrouding traps with a visual barrier prior to handling. We identified that the tightly spaced wire mesh of horse panels (10.2 × 5.1 cm) reduced injuries 88% compared to more widely spaced mesh sizes (10.2 × 10.2 cm or larger). We documented that it took an average of 71.6 s to enshroud traps, which corresponded to a rapid reduction in flight behaviors from wild pigs (i.e., ≤52.6 s until stationary). Enshrouding corral traps facilitated a 28% quicker delivery of chemical immobilization drugs via darting as wild pigs became inactive. We recommend using tightly spaced mesh of horse panels to reduce trap-related injuries and incorporation of trap shrouds to facilitate delivery of chemical immobilization drugs when handling wild pigs.