Monday, October 17, 2016

Feral Swine Eradication Status

Feral Swine Eradication Status September 2016 Twelve counties covering almost 19 million acres have been cleared and we are on track to complete feral swine eradication from most areas of the state, where access has been provided, by the end of CY 2017. NM WS currently has 4 full time temporary employees working to remove feral swine primarily in mountainous areas of south central NM. The USFS granted approval to begin using an integrated approach with multiple tools for feral swine removal in the White Mountain Wilderness in late FY 15 and work began in October 2015. Thirteen feral swine were taken within WMWA in FY 16. Over 225 feral swine were taken by NM Wildlife Services staff in 2017, and approximately 1,258 feral swine have been taken since eradication began in January 2013. Over 1,900 feral swine have been taken since federal FY 2004. Over 66% of the total feral swine removed were taken with aid of the helicopter and approximately 60% of the feral swine taken since eradication began were taken with aid of “Judas” swine. The current focus is primarily in the Lincoln National Forest (including the White Mountain Wilderness), the Mescalero Apache Reservation, and adjacent areas in south central NM. Since the project began, 239 feral swine have been taken on the Mescalero Apache Reservation, not including those taken by Mescalero Apache staff. During the summer of 2016 WS staff began using Environmental DNA (eDNA) water sampling in the Lesser Prairie Chicken area in eastern Chaves County, and the Lincoln National Forest, to test for feral swine presence or absence. This involves collection of water samples from dirt tanks, reservoirs, stock tanks, streams and other water sources. A buffer solution is added and the samples are shipped to our National Wildlife Research for analysis. The analysis can detect single feral swine presence at the site up to 13 days prior to the sample date, and multiple feral swine presence up to approximately 60 days prior to the sample date. Using these results to target specific areas, 8 feral swine were removed from Lesser Prairie Chicken habitat this year. A single positive sample was detected in the White Mountain Wilderness (Indian Creek), and although feral swine presence was confirmed by trail camera, this feral pig has not been found. Lincoln National Forest (Sacramento Ranger District) staff have volunteered to collect eDNA samples to assist us in this surveillance effort. Each targeted area will be sampled every 2-3 months for verification that there are no feral remaining feral swine. Estimated Numbers of Feral Swine Remaining in the Following Areas Curry County: 0 known. No reported sightings this FY. Roosevelt County: Very few if any remaining at present but pigs are moving back and forth into TX. Presently working on a ranch in SE Roosevelt County. This FY, 117 feral hogs have been taken, 87 by Helicopter, 29 by trapping and 1 by shooting. De Baca County: 0 known. No reported sightings in this FY. Guadalupe County: 0 known, 1 reported hit by a vehicle north of Santa Rosa. Chaves County: Very few in the LPC area. Pecos River: no reported sightings/photos since June 2016. Eddy County: 2-3 known near the El Paso Gas Plant (Pecos River). Periodically, lone boars (1-2) are taken along the Delaware River coming in from Texas. Otero County: WS staff are presently working north of Timberon to Benson Ridge east from Sunspot Highway to Weed. A large amount of rooting was found near Wills Canyon/Hubble Canyon area, however only 2-3 have been documented on camera. Aerial flights have been conducted with minimal results because of the dense forest canopy. Restrictions on flights due to T&E concerns (Mexican spotted owl) and big game hunting seasons have limited WS aerial work in these areas. A small sounder 6-10 feral hogs NW of Pinon was recently located on private land adjacent to LNF. Corral Traps have been set in this area where we hope to radio collar another Judas. A helicopter hunt is planned for this area. Our last remaining Judas dropped her ear tag in Bluewater Canyon in June. She had been very productive the past year and a half. We removed 60 + feral pigs from her alone. Quay County: 0 reported sightings. San Miguel County: Only 2 feral swine were taken in San Miguel Co. this FY. No additional sign or reports from this area. Union County: Seven feral swine were removed with the aid of a Judas this year. Lea County: No reports of feral hogs during FY 16 Harding/Mora County: In early September 2016 a feral hog track was found on the Canadian River within the boundaries of the Kiowa Grasslands. An aerial flight was conducted in mid-September and no feral swine were found. We will continue to monitor this area. Hidalgo County: Unknown numbers in areas where access has been denied. Middle Rio Grande Valley: No credible reports at this time. Lincoln County (Excluding WMW): 3 feral hogs in the last 2 months were caught on camera north of the Capitan Mountains. There was a confirmed sighting on the south side of the Capitan Mountains (Latham Allotment). This area will be worked in between the big game hunts this fall. One feral hog was caught on camera in the Loma Grande area. A total of 24 cameras are set in the WMW and adjacent allotments, 31 cameras are set throughout the LNF on 14 allotments. Drainages and canyons surveyed include: Argentina Canyon, Argentina Spring, Nogal Creek, Nogal Canyon, Kraut Canyon, George Canyon, Littleton Canyon, Whitehorse Hill, Indian Canyon, Tortillita Canyon, Pennsylvania Canyon, Crest Trail, Skull Canyon, Turkey Springs, Big Bonito Canyon, Gaylord Canyon, Water Canyon, and Norman Canyon. Feral swine sign (wallows & tracks) has been found in Argentina Canyon, Big Bonito Canyon, Indian Canyon, Crest Trail, Pennsylvania Canyon, and Skull Canyon. There is an abundance of food sources including pinon nuts, acorns, forbs and grasses as well as water sources within wilderness. The western and southern parts of the wilderness will be surveyed soon. Mescalero Apache Reservation: As of September 2016, we were aware of 5-10 feral swine on the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation in the Rock House Spring and Spur Well area. A Judas Boar was tagged and collared in Jan 2016. He has been located many times in the past few months, but has been alone each time. He has had a home range of 225-240 square miles. There are several reports of swine along the 244 highway that runs from HWY 70 to Cloudcroft. These have been investigated but no definite sign has been found. We are in the process of setting out monitoring cameras in these areas. Feral swine rooting was observed from the helicopter at 9000 ft. elevation on the SW side of Sierra Blanca in an extremely remote and rugged area on the wilderness boundary. A new Feral Swine Specialist (Aaron Fierro) was hired in Aug and he is presently setting cameras and becoming familiar with the Reservation. Lesser Prairie Chicken Area: During FY 16, 126 feral swine were removed from the Lesser Prairie Chicken Area (Roosevelt County-101, Eastern Chaves County-25). Monitoring will continue through FY17. BLM Biologists informed WS that LPC counts are up from last year. Numbers have increased in each of the last three years from 161 in 2014, 355 in 2015, and 1,249 in 2016. The primary reason for a high success was likely the increase in rainfall but they also believe feral swine and coyotes removed in these areas have helped increase the population. Adjacent areas in Texas: During FY16, the Texas WS program took 222 feral swine within the buffer zone in Texas and New Mexico. An additional 347 were taken just east of the buffer area, and another 210 were taken along the Pecos River south of the buffer area in Texas. Work will continue in these areas in FY 17. AR-15 Testing In June 2015, WS staff began field testing use of an AR-15 from the Helicopter for feral swine under an established research protocol. The AR-15 is used primarily in mountainous, ponderosa pine habitat where shotgun use is generally ineffective. Sixteen flights have been conducted using the AR-15 and 155 feral swine were taken with an average of 4.7 shots. Distances to target ranges from 60-150 yards, depending on terrain and visibility, averaging 98 yards. Distance above ground level has ranged from 85 -130 feet, averaging 109 feet. Outreach During FY 16, English and Spanish public service announcements for radio developed with the help of NMDA and Cooperative Extension were distributed to outlets across eastern NM. The PSA’s request that people report any feral swine sightings to WS. Feral Swine Take by NM WS FY 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 131 14 15 16 TOTAL # Taken 21 32 62 77 62 80 219 143 620 195 214 229 1,954 1Feral Swine Eradication Funding Received

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