Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Scientists Get Down And Dirty With DNA To Track Wild Pigs

These animals will eat anything, from rows of corn to sea turtle eggs, to baby deer and goats. "People don't realize that wild pigs are voracious predators," says Jack Mayer, a biologist with the Savannah River National Laboratory in Aiken, S.C., who has studied wild pigs for 40 years. "They will run down and kill and eat lamb, sheep, goats, calves, domestic chickens." And more. "Pigs will eat humans," says Mayer. "It's been documented in combat, remote area homicide situations and plane crashes. Pigs will go in and feed on human carcasses." They are "opportunistic omnivores," Mayer says. "If they get can their mouth around it and it has a calorie in it, they will eat it."...But the pigs may have met their match. Kelly Williams, a biological science technician at the National Wildlife Research Center, is going high-tech on these hogs. She and her colleagues at the National Wildlife Research Center have recently developed a way to keep tabs on the animals without ever even laying eyes on them. All she needs is a scoop of water. "So, for example, right now in New Mexico the forest service is out collecting water for me," says Williams. "All they have to do is carry around a little Nalgene bottle, scoop up a water sample and ship it back to me." At the end, she gets an answer – "Yes, pigs were here," or "No, they weren't." She then passes the results along to people like Brian Archuleta, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in New Mexico. Archuleta has a goal for the new year: wild pig annihilation. "Total elimination by the last day of September of this year," he says of his goal. Archuleta is not joking...more

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