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Impacts of wild pigs on wetlands and aquatic communities across a Florida rangeland

by Wes Anderson, PhD Candidate
UF/IFAS Range Cattle Research and Education Center

Wes with an anesthetized boar that has been collared and sampled as part of Dr. Raoul Boughton’s feral swine study.

I never pictured myself working and living on a cattle ranch. Or even working with wild pigs for that matter. But anyone having known me from the time I was a child onwards wouldn’t be surprised that I’m still tromping around in wetlands and catching frogs and salamanders. Ever since I can remember I’ve been interested in wildlife. And I’ve had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places to learn more about wildlife and wildlife conservation – for example hiking the cloud forests of Costa Rica and going on safari in Botswana. When most people think about wildlife conservation it’s places like these they’re thinking about. Or as a more local example many folks think about the Everglades.

But wildlife conservation can and should occur outside these natural areas. Around the world, rangelands cover ¼ of the land area. In Florida, the amount is even higher. Approximately 12 million acres or 1/3 of the state’s land area is currently considered rangeland. With Florida’s population projected to double by the year 2060, effective wildlife conservation across these areas is even more critical.

Since I started my PhD program back in 2014 I’ve been examining the impacts of wild pigs on wetlands and aquatic communities at Buck Island Ranch in southeastern Highlands County with an emphasis on amphibians. Wild pigs are an invasive species in Florida and cause numerous negative impacts. Pigs can have two types of impacts on amphibians – 1) Direct in which they’re directly consuming the amphibians and 2) Indirect by creating habitat disturbance in wetlands through rooting. To examine these impacts, we’ve conducted four research studies at Buck Island Ranch:

  1. Genetic analysis of wild pig fecal samples to assess diet items
  2. Drone flights to measure amounts of pig rooting across multiple years
  3. Tadpole sampling in study wetlands to assess impacts of rooting
  4. Trapping of salamanders and other aquatic fauna in study wetlands to examine both indirect and direct impacts by pigs

Please watch my recent Ona Graduate Student Highlight to learn more about these studies and hear some initial findings from this research.

Ona Graduate Student Highlight with Wes Anderson
“Impact of wild pigs on wetlands and aquatic communities across a Florida rangeland” –
watch now:
recorded: 10/9/2018
Slides: click here to access a printable pdf of Wes’s presentation

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