Date of Award

12-2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Wildlife and Fisheries Biology

Advisor

Jodice, Patrick GR

Committee Member

Bridges, William C

Committee Member

Mayer, John J

Abstract

Wild hogs (Sus scrofa) are an invasive species that can damage native ecosystems, negatively impact native wildlife, and potentially act as disease reservoirs in the U.S. To better understand how natural resource professionals in South Carolina approach wild hog management, I conducted a web-based survey of natural resource professionals focused on aspects of wild hog impacts and management. Generally, there was agreement among natural resource professionals regarding the approaches used to control wild hog populations and their subsequent effectiveness. The majority of respondents indicated high priority impacts needing to be addressed in wild hog management were agricultural damage and disease transmission. The expert opinions and perceptions of natural resource professionals provide important information for the creation of a wild hog technical guide for South Carolina. To assess the feasibility of a technical assistance and cost-sharing program to reduce wild hog damage on private landowners' properties in South Carolina, I provided camera-activated corral traps to five private landowners and examined how they used the traps to manage wild hogs and how other wildlife species responded the traps. Most pictures were taken during late night and early morning hours between 2100 and 0300. Wild hogs were present in approximately 2% of pictures, and non-target species, including white-tailed deer, raccoons, eastern cottontail rabbits, and opossums, were photographed more often than wild hogs. During the study period, a total of 30 wild hogs were trapped by two landowners. The development of a technical assistance and cost-sharing program for private landowners affected by wild hogs is a priority because wild hogs are present in every South Carolina county and affecting landowners throughout the state. With the majority of land in the U.S. privately owned, wild hog population control will likely entail management in large portions of the landscape on private lands as well as public lands. To examine the relationship between the prevalence of six wild hog diseases and certain demographic, temporal, and spatial factors, I analyzed disease data collected by the United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services personnel in South Carolina between 2007 and 2014. Age class was significantly associated with swine brucellosis, pseudorabies virus, and porcine circovirus 2 prevalence. Sex and season were significantly associated with porcine circovirus 2 prevalence as well. Positive swine brucellosis, pseudorabies virus, and porcine circovirus samples were detected in 44.4-92.3% of counties sampled. All domestic swine operations in the U.S. are currently free of swine brucellosis and pseudorabies virus; however, our results suggest that wild hogs could be reservoirs of these diseases and thus have the potential to infect domestic swine herds. Because wild hogs are present in every county in South Carolina, this information is crucial to determine disease hotspots in the state and can be shared with the at-risk individuals, such as hunters or farmers, and the domestic livestock operations in affected counties.

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