GAITLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) — With wild hogs plaguing two national parks in Tennessee and neighboring states, officials are using GPS technology to keep an eye on where they roam.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area have been approved to share 20 GPS collars that would allow biologists to track some of the hogs.
"Wild hogs are the most prolific large animal in North America," park wildlife biologist Bill Stiver said. "They can breed at six months of age and have two litters a year, each with three to eight piglets."
The free-roaming feral hogs can also cause extensive environmental damage as well as carry pseudorabies, a viral disease that poses a major threat to the commercial swine industry, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
Wild hogs in the Smoky Mountains first tested positive for pseudorabies in 2005, and since then the disease has spread rapidly. Stiver said the new GPS collars can help show how the disease is moving across the landscape.
The park's wild hog population dates back to the early 1920s when European hogs escaped from a game reserve in North Carolina.
In 1959, the park began a hog control program. Since then, hog hunters in the Smoky Mountains have trapped and killed an estimated 13,200 wild pigs.
Park researchers already have used GPS to map the locations of the hogs that have been trapped and killed, as well as the locations of the pigs that tested positive for pseudorabies.
"Eradication would be our desire, but given the park's acreage and our staff and funding limitations, we're doing our best to mitigate the damage," Stiver said.
Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, http://www.knoxnews.com