Feral pigs

Feral pigs occur in both native forest and in exotic plantations, and are well established throughout New Zealand.

resizedimage300200 Feral pigFeral pigs impact native ecosystems, pastoral production and contribute to bovine tuberculosis (Tb) problem. Pigs can damage pasture and crops, and kill newborn lambs and cast sheep. However, the extent of such damage is limited in New Zealand. Pig hunters and their dogs are normally successfully engaged by farmers to deal with any localised problems of this nature.

It's worth noting that Feral pigs remain highly prized by many New Zealanders today, with public sentiment balanced between viewing feral pigs as a resource as well as a pest.

Feral pigs are smaller and more robust than domestic pigs. Their snouts are longer and larger, and they have powerfully built shoulders, with smaller hindquarters. Their hair is coarse and their tails are usually straight with a bushy tip.

Feral pigs eat a wide variety of food including grasses, roots, seeds and other plant material as well as carrion, invertebrates (e.g. snails) and ground-nesting birds. They damage forests by uprooting trees and saplings and eating native plants and invertebrates.  They can also eat pasture and crops.

Ecological impacts of pigs are difficult to separate from the effects of other species introduced around the same time. Feral pigs can have effects on birds populations, invertebrates, plants and habitats.

Methods of control 

Day hunting

Day hunting is the most common method used to control feral pigs in New Zealand, including:

  • Ground hunting with dogs;
  • Ground hunting without dogs; and
  • Aerial (helicopter) shooting (which can be enhanced with the use of ‘Judas pigs’).

Of these methods, hunting with dogs is by far the most popular and is much more effective than hunting without dogs.A 1988 survey showed that hunters with dogs accounted for 87% of around 100,000 pigs taken that year. While hunting with dogs has historically been the domain of recreational hunters, the technique is being used to good effect by non-recreational professional hunters also. 

Hunting with trained pig hunting dogs and stalking and shooting are the traditional methods of control, and are effective if undertaken correctly. These methods are only suitable in some areas.

Night shooting

Night shooting is also rarely used in New Zealand for formal feral pig management but, again, has the potential for being more widely implemented.

Judas Pigs

Both ground and aerial hunting methods can be enhanced by the use of 'Judas pigs’, meaning a pig which has been captured, fitted with a radio collar and released to find and mob up with other feral pigs. Its radio collar will then lead the hunters to the other pigs. 

Exclusion fencing

Exclusion fencing is a final control option, often used in ’Mainland Island’ projects. Pig-specific fences can be constructed at less cost than a true multi-species fence and may be usefully applied to protect high-value areas from pigs.

Legal requirements 

For a list of legal requirements check out the legal requirements page


The information on this website is intended to provide information about pests and pest management in New Zealand. We've made every effort to make sure that the information set out in this website is accurate. If you have an update to the information listed here please contact us.

For more specific information on controlling feral pigs check out 'Feral Pigs: A Review of Monitoring and Control Techniques' in the Library.