Effects of Feral Swine (Sus scrofa) on Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) nests in Louisiana.
Rapid spread of the introduced Sus scrofa (Feral Hog) is a major concern for many landowners and land managers due to its destructive rooting behavior which damages natural habitats. Feral Swine have also been reported as infrequent predators of Alligator mississippiensis (American Alligator) eggs, with only seven nests lost in three prior studies combined (Fogarty 1974, Ruckel and Steele 1984, Woodward et al. 1992). In response to increasing reports by Louisiana landowners of Alligator nest losses due to Feral Swine, we sent a questionnaire addressing this issue to licensed Louisiana Alligator farmers who are permitted to collect eggs from wild nests. Over half (51.4%) of the farmers reported loss of Alligator nests in 2011; some 590 nests were damaged or destroyed on 36 separate properties across the state. Four farmers, some of whom have twenty or more years of experience collecting Alligator eggs, reported this is the first year in which they have lost nests to Feral Swine. Other farmers reported seeing wild hogs while in the field or seeing sign of hogs, which suggests future potential losses may be incurred and that the range and population level of this non-native species is expanding in important Alligator nesting habitat in Louisiana. Nearly all farmers who had nests destroyed by Feral Swine (94.7%) reported hog damage is increasing on their properties. Some farmers reported that hog removal efforts limited their Feral Swine damage this year relative to past years. In addition to deleterious effects on wetlands habitats caused by Feral Swine, the financial impact of loss of the Alligator egg revenue is significant.