In February of 2020, myself and Mr. Johnathan Samples, HuntPro’s Lead Developer and “the wizard behind the curtain”, presented on this patented technology at the Southeastern Deer Study Group (SEDSG) www.sedsg.com. If you are not familiar with SEDSG, it is the largest annual gathering of whitetail deer researchers, professionals, and managers in the U.S. I had not attended for a few years, so it was great catching up with old friends and colleagues.
Dr. John C. Kilgo, Research Wildlife Biologist for the USDA Forest Service’s Southern Research Station, stopped by our booth. I met John years ago while I was working in S.C. After a demo, I explained to him how the HuntPro AI is designed to instantly identify and tag photos for many different wildlife species, the sex of some species, age class in some cases and even different body markings and/or color. The rest of this story is now being written. Dr. Kilgo was kind enough to talk with me by phone about his ongoing project involving territoriality in wild pig sounders and his relative success with whole-sounder trapping. A wild pig sounder is best defined as a cohesive group of up to 30 or more wild pigs from multiple generations being primarily females and their offspring. You may have seen web videos of large drop cage or trap door, cellular camera monitored, wild pig traps designed to capture whole-sounders.
When we met at SEDSG, Dr. Kilgo’s research was already underway on the 200K acre Savannah River Site (SRS) in the sand-hills region of S.C. According to him, wild pigs (an accepted name for exotic, feral swine by the scientific community) have been present on the SRS since the 1950s. The damage they often inflict on the land, agriculture and native, wildlife species can be severe. Population control methods using traditional box traps, corral traps and hunting on the SRS had been in use for decades. While these methods seemed to slow population expansion, the long-range, sustainable reduction in numbers was not satisfactory. Dr. Kilgo explained, “Using box traps or corral traps, we were not catching whole-sounders. Pigs that were not caught inside when the traps closed were being educated. We moved to smart traps monitored by cellular cameras and triggered remotely by someone monitoring a mobile app. The study we are currently conducting is to determine if smart traps and whole-sounder capture proves to be more effective in lowering numbers than traditional methods.”
Dr. Kilgo continued, “We began by choosing multiple study areas, thousands of acres each, where we trap with traditional or whole-sounder capture methods. We are surveying these areas with trail cameras to monitor population density changes over a two-year period. We determined the baseline population density in each test area at the beginning of the study with a partially marked, spatial capture-recapture method using trail camera images. Basically, we are uniquely patterning spots of individual pigs and grouping pigs by colors (red, brown or black). This gives us the data we need to determine population density and changes in density more accurately over the study period. There are 250 trail cameras deployed from which our team brings in hundreds of thousands of images during each survey period. Our interns and other staff were spending weeks manually processing data from all of these images. For this reason, I was quite interested in artificial intelligence (AI) filters and tagging capabilities when I met with Rans at SEDSG.”
The interviewee is not endorsing the use of HuntPro. This study is ongoing; however, Dr. Kilgo shared with me that preliminary findings indicate a relatively higher drop in wild pig density in the areas with whole-sounder, smart traps versus those where they are using traditional methods. Even if the study proves whole-sounder traps are more effective there are other factors to consider for private landowners. Compared to traditional methods, these individual trap systems can be quite expensive; however, they require much less labor and time in the field.