No Corn, No Problem: A Test for the Best Non-Grain Attractant for Wild Pigs

Grain-based attractants (e.g., corn) are standard among most wild pig (Sus scrofa) trapping and non-invasive sampling efforts (e.g., genetic spatial capture/recapture, camera trapping), but their use is not always feasible due to cost, deployment restrictions (e.g., difficulty of transporting grain into remote areas, property rules), and potential disease concerns associated with concentrating non-target species at bait sites. Attractant deployment and efficacy should be considered by biologists, private landowners, and researchers given the ultimate need to use attractants to attract wild pigs. To examine the efficacy of potential non-grain attractants, we used remote camera grids to identify attractant(s) that maximized wild pig visitation while minimizing non-target species visitation in a forested landscape in the southeastern United States. Further, we only considered non-grain attractants easy to carry (i.e., <0.5 kg and compact) and deploy (i.e., painted on tree trunks or activated scent wicks). Comparing eight non-grain attractants among food, non-food, and control (i.e., no attractant; n = 11 visitations) treatments, we found used cooking oil (i.e., fish fryer grease; n = 38 visitations), orange marmalade (n = 36 visitations), and caramel syrup (n = 29 visitations) were most attractive to wild pigs. Although also attractive to opossums (Didelphis virginiana; n = 50 visitations), used cooking oil was not a significant attractant among other non-target species. In contrast, orange marmalade was attractive to raccoons (Procyon lotor), opossums, and eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis; n = 188 combined visitations), and caramel syrup was attractive to raccoons and opossums (n = 137 combined visitations). In our study, used cooking oil was the non-grain attractant most likely to maximize wild pig visitation while minimizing non-target species attraction, and increases the efficacy of sampling of remote areas considering its ease of distribution.

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