GPS Telemetry Data Used to Track Wild Pig Movement and Behavior

Chris attaches a GPS collar to a subadult female pig.

As Tall Timbers continues to partner with the Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program (FSCP), University of Georgia Master’s student Chris Terrazas (advised by Dr. Mike Mengak) has spent the past three months attaching GPS collars to wild pigs captured by Wildlife Services. With support from a Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) grant, Chris will use GPS telemetry data to inform future trapping efforts and explore habitat management strategies that could mitigate wild pig population growth.

Control measures for wild pigs are well-studied, but implementation is limited to detection locality and largely reactive. Land managers might only detect wild pigs when they are traveling past trail cameras or leaving behind damage from foraging. Location data can reveal where pigs go when they aren’t foraging and what attributes, if any, pigs select for resting cover. Understanding fine-scale habitat use could help managers focus trapping and habitat manipulation in areas pigs are expected to be, rather than where they have been. We hope to use these data to direct a more proactive approach to wild pig management, especially in areas sensitive to these invasive pests.

Thus far, Chris has collected over 3,000 GPS locations on seven individual pigs in the Red Hills region. Using those data, he identified 20 resting sites and evaluated the vegetative cover at those sites, some of which pigs have visited repeatedly. Chris will use fire frequency models developed by Tall Timbers to evaluate the impact of prescribed fire on wild pig movement and behavior. Telemetry data will also be used to study the influence of abiotic factors like weather and proximity to important landscape features on wild pig habitat use. Data analysis will wrap up in 2023; stay tuned for details.

One week’s worth of GPS data from a collared pig in the Red Hills region; clusters of subsequent locations indicate prolonged use of an area and potential resting habitat.

If you would like to hear more about this project, please join us at our upcoming Red Hills land owner/manager workshop on April 15, 2022 at Livingston Place, where we will discuss the continued feral swine control efforts within the Florida-Georgia FSCP. For more information about attending, please email Kim Sash or call her at (850) 893-4153 ext. 336.


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