In this wild hunt for boars, shooters forgo sleep and comfort, marauding the bush in central Queensland, to try to make a dent in the feral pig population — Australia’s most damaging agricultural pest.
- The King and Queen of CQ Big Boar Competition involves a feral pig hunt at Jambin, central Queensland over three days
- The competition — renowned as Australia’s largest — saw almost 900 feral pigs killed this year
- Experts say better monitoring is needed to gauge the effects of these hunts and properly combat the feral pig problem in Queensland
Nestled among the untamed scrub in the hills of rural Queensland, a boy aims a rifle across the bonnet of a 4WD at a slobbering tusked beast.
WARNING: This article includes images of slain animals some may find upsetting.
He is being coached by his father, who tells him to think about the future, about where the beast will run if he does not shoot the perfect shot.
They are the foot soldiers in a guerrilla war on one of the country’s most significant agricultural threats — feral boars.
Out in central Queensland, they hunt for three days and nights as part of Jambin’s famous pigging competition.
The hunt – officially named the King and Queen of CQ Big Boar Competition – is reportedly the biggest in Australia and sits somewhere between prize hunting and pest control.
“We started it four years ago to eradicate pigs around the shire,” organiser Matthew Weeks said.
It has quickly become a community mainstay attracting hunters from as far away as North Queensland and New South Wales.
Dan Clarke and his cousin Andy said the hunt has become an annual bonding ritual for them and their sons.
“We’ve been coming ever since it started … [boars] are appearing in a lot more places now,” Mr Clarke said.
“This year … the boys shot this one pig by themselves then he took off and they followed him and shot him again.”
Farm manager Adrian Roots says it has become an important part of addressing one of his land’s “biggest problems”.
“These big pigs don’t live out in the open,” he said.
“It’s hard work but it’s important … with the erosion and the risk of if a disease gets in here we can’t stop it because we can’t control these [boars].”
Disease and damage
The National Feral Pig Action plan attributes more than $106-million in agricultural damages to feral pigs.
“Feral pigs will impact on crops, pastures … they may prey on livestock,” Australia’s National Feral Pig Management coordinator Dr Heather Channon said.
“They’re involved in disease transmission including foot-and-mouth disease, African swine fever, they can also spread leptospirosis which can cause abortion storms and stillbirths in cattle.”
Banana shire councillor and Capricorn Coast pest management committee member Colin Semple said boars were a specific problem for farmers heading sorghum.
“[Boars] go into it and work into the middle … where they’re not so visible where they feel safer,” Mr Semple said.
“They don’t just eat it, they knock a lot down as well.”
More research needed
At least 70 per cent of Australia’s feral pigs need to be culled each year in order to prevent rapid population recovery.
Almost 900 boars were killed by hunters for this year’s Jambin competition – which Mr Roots said would “eradicate a large chunk of the problem” on his land.
However, Dr Channon said a lack of research made it difficult to gauge the effects of concentrated culls – like the Jambin hunt – on the wider population
“Intensive ground shooting operations may reduce local populations of feral pigs, it is seldom effective for damage control and is not suitable for population-scale management across large areas,” Dr Channon said.
Dr Channon said more comprehensive monitoring was needed to properly track changes in population and the damage caused by feral pigs.
She said the recently introduced National Feral Pig Action Plan aimed to change feral pig management from “short term and reactive” into a more collaborative and coordinated strategy.
Spoils of war
Hundreds flocked to the Jambin Hotel Motel for the conclusion of the boar hunt.
The bloody carcasses of the biggest boars were laid as farmers gathered to celebrate a brief respite from pests.
It may be a gruesome sight, but it was doing good for the community.
Entry fees raised more than $10,000 for local schools, while the pig carcases were donated as food to a Crocodile Farm near Rockhampton.
“Everyone sticks to the rules and stays on their own country, and we get to eradicate a big chunk of a problem,” Mr Roots said.