Mississippi State Smartphone App for Feral Pig Damage

A new phone app compiles data about property damage caused by feral pigs, which are believed to account for more than $1.5 billion annually in damage nationwide.

Mississippi State Smartphone App for Feral Pig Damage

Feral Pig Damage App from Mississippi State University will help compile data for multiple agencies and researchers to use for better management and eradication. (Photo: Karen Brasher/MSU)

A new phone app compiles data about property damage caused by feral pigs, which are believed to account for more than $1.5 billion annually in damage nationwide.

Several years ago in southwest Alabama, Barry Estes and I were toodling around on his side-by-side checking some fields. Estes owns Alabama Hog Control and every year puts the hammer down on rooters via trapping and hunting. I'd already dropped one young pig in the woods with the .270, but any others probably were holed up in a shady wallow. We were scouting some areas for damage for our nighttime hunt.

"Looks like someone got the tractor stuck and the truck trying to pull it out," I said as we passed a small field. The earth was upturned with deep pits that looked dug out by tires and bumpers or a small backhoe.

"That's hog damage," Estes said. I had seen damage before, but nothing like this. It was terrible. The landowner's money and time were wasted by just a few hours of boars, sows and shoats rooting in the soil. This was Black Belt soil, too, hard by the Alabama River. That soil is firm, tough, gumbo-sticking stuff that makes you curse if you get a truck or tractor stuck. And the hogs didn't care one bit about that.

There's an App!

Of those billions of dollars in annual property damage, almost all of it is in the Southeast. Feral pigs are expanding their range north and west into Missouri, Kansas and even Colorado. Wild rooters have been part of the lore of the Carolinas and Virginias since the pioneer days.

A few other states have here-and-there sightings, but most of the problem is in the Southeast. According to a Mississippi State research study, feral pigs cause $66 million annually in property damage in the Magnolia State. They're indiscriminate feeders, going after whatever is the best food source. That may be the tender roots of newly planted pines, snakes, corn from feeders, soured corn or bait put out by hunters or other agrcultural crops. Yards, shrubs and flowers are on the list, too. Residents of central and south Florida neighborhoods often see their yards and community areas damaged.

Now it's easier to report sightings and damage for data collection thanks to the new Mississippi State “Feral Pig Damage” app. It's available in the Apple Store and for Android users.

According to a MSU press release, users can pinpoint or draw a polygon on a specific location, upload photos, estimate economic loss and describe multiple attributes about the type of damage including crop type, whether it’s an agricultural, hardwood or pine area, as well as growth stage.

Mark McConnell, app developer and assistant professor in MSU’s Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture in the College of Forest Resources, said the app lets landowners, hunters and natural resource professionals quantify feral pig damage as soon as they encounter it and estimate the economic impact of that damage.

“The app gives anyone who observes wild hog damage the ability to quantify it both spatially and monetarily in real time,” said McConnell, who also is a scientist in the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. “Additionally, the mapping feature allows wildlife researchers to better understand the extent of wild hog damage in areas of which we may not be aware. This crucial information can help researchers and wildlife managers combat the spread and impact of feral pigs.”

The app is available for download in the Apple Store at https://apps.apple.com/us/app/feral-pig-damage/id1265239102.

Android download is available at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.bugwood.feralpigdamage.

Bronson Strickland, the St. John Family Endowed Professor of Wildlife Management at MSU, hopes the app helps provide a more complete picture of the intensity and location of the damage in order to help refine economic estimates.

“The impetus for the app was the need for a consistent, systematic method for the quantification of feral pig damage,” Strickland said.

He pointed out that, in time, the app will generate a database of wild hog sightings and damage estimates that can be shared across multiple management organizations.

“This is an effort for all agencies, organizations and even individual agricultural producers that are impacted by feral pigs to quantify the damage, so wildlife researchers can determine where the greatest density of damage is occurring, and where new, emerging wild hog populations are found,” Strickland said. “The end result is to know where wild hog densities are greatest so that we can better manage those populations.”

Partners in the app’s development include the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, MSU Extension Service, the University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, and the MSU Forest and Wildlife Research Center’s Center for Resolving Human-Wildlife Conflict.

Using the App

Downloading the app on my iPhone took just a few seconds. While I don't get to hunt as often as I'd like to, I'll be ready the next time I get the chance.

The app asks for a name and email for any follow-up questions the researchers may have. It also asks whether you're a Farmer/Producer, Forest Landowner, Natural Resource Biologist, Conservation Officer, Homeowner, Hunter or Other.

You have the option to report a sighting or report damage, both of which take you to a satellite view map with your Lat/Long coordinate pin. Select from the "Draw" or "Polygon" mode to pinpoint your damage or sighting. With the Polygon mode, you tap three dots to create the zone. Because I respect the polygon, I like this feature (weather geeks know what I mean).

It also offers the chance to upload a photo of damage and log whether it's in a Crop, Pine or Hardwood area. Once the info is uploaded, the MSU researchers can get a more detailed look at where feral pigs live, move during seasons and can possibly be better managed.

Instructional videos are available to help you with the app. I had some quirks with my iPhone using the "Done" or "Cancel" features but the videos explain everything well. Download the app first and use it while watching the video to nail down how to use it successfully.

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