Ecology of feral pigs on Santa Catalina Island Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/8g84mr11s

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  • A feral pig population on Santa Catalina Island, California, was studied for 17 months beginning in July 1980. Density was estimated to be 21 to 34 pigs/km² (95% confidence interval) using capture-recapture techniques. Dry season home ranges determined from radio-telemetry data were small and differed significantly between boars and sows. Patterns of habitat use according to vegetative community, topographic position, slope, aspect, elevation, vertical distance to water, and horizontal distance to water were examined. During the dry season, pigs preferred cool moist canyon bottoms, the result of both a physiological need for free water and behavioral responses to high environmental temperatures. Patterns of utilization during the wet season appeared to be primarily a function of food availability. Diets were primarily herbaceous, although small amounts of insects and vertebrate matter were eaten, and varied seasonally. Fruits and forbs were the most preferred foods in the dry season, while fruits, grasses and forbs were most preferred during the wet season. Seasonal differences in diets reflected changes in availability and phenology of plants. Seasonal trends were apparent in acid detergent fiber, cellulose, and crude protein levels in the diet, but not in acid detergent fiber, phosphorus, gross energy, digestible energy, protein digestibility and cellulose digestibility. Diets were characterized as high in fiber, low in energy and seasonally deficient in protein. Kidney fat and femur marrow fat indices indicated pigs declined in body condition in summer and fall, and improved in winter and spring. Optimal performance of pigs on Catalina appeared to be linked to the quantity of the acorn crop in early fall and the timing and duration of fall-winter rains. A seasonal pattern in breeding was evident, with conception apparently linked to both nutrition and photoperiod. Fertility declined in late spring and summer as photoperiod increased; onset of estrus and breeding in fall or winter were regulated by nutritional status of sows. Litter size as measured by fetal counts was 5.00 ± 0.36 S.E., and sows averaged 0.86 ± 0.17 S.E. litters over a 12 month period. Most sows were older than 1 year when they first conceived, and litter size increased from puberty and peaked at 2-3 years of age. Intrauterine mortality of fetuses averaged 25% and piglet mortality was estimated to be 58% prior to weaning. Mortality rates appeared to be higher for piglets born in summer than in winter or spring.
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