Shooters kill rare domestic pigs
A TRAGIC case of mistaken identity has cost a Granite Belt couple their rare pig herd.
Nicolle Kelly and Mick Billinghurst's Large Black English breeding sows, along with a litter of piglets, were shot on their Dalveen property after a neighbour mistakenly identified them as feral pigs and directed shooters through the fence.
Just one of the four-week-old piglets survived the shooting and is now being treated for a leg injury.
They were beautiful natured pigs, they would have walked towards the shooters because they we used to us feeding them.
The breeding group, which had been free ranging on the Kelly's 45ac property since last October, were valued at between $2000 and $3000.
A distraught Mrs Kelly described the incident as a "tragic tale of tears".
"Our neighbour had shooters on her property and, at some point, she saw our pigs on the dam and mistook them for ferals," she said.
"We divide our time between Dalveen and Brisbane and we weren't home at the time.
"She rang later to tell us they had shot feral pigs on our place and we were devastated.
"These animals were pets - they lived in our stables.
"They were beautiful natured pigs, they would have walked towards the shooters because they we used to us feeding them, so it's heartbreaking."
When told of her mistake the neighbour became distraught and offered financial compensation to replace animals.
The incident has prompted the Kellys to launch an awareness campaign across the Southern Downs highlighting the differences between the Large Black and feral pigs. It's a move welcomed by fellow breeders Duncan and Louise Weller, from Warwick.
"It's astounding someone would direct shooters onto a property without first getting permission from the owners," Mr Weller said.
"But that aside there is distinctive differences between Large Blacks and ferals.
"Large Blacks are, as their name would suggest, a large pig with adult sows weighing 270-320kg and boars 320-360kg. They also have a straight back and even conformation, as opposed to the ferals typically well-developed forequarters, narrow hindquarters and lighter weight.
"The most obvious distinction would be Large Blacks have large, floppy ears, which hang down over their eyes and contribute to their very docile nature. Whereas wild pigs tend to have short, pointy ears and longer snouts.
"The Kellys' pigs were domesticated, the large sows both had ear tags and, even though they were free range, they were accustomed to being handled."
Mr Weller said this rare breed of pigs - the Rare Breeds Trust of Australia lists them as critical - were often let free range because of their ability to gain weight on pasture.
"Obviously we need to raise public awareness and I would also recommend Large Black breeders put up signs to avoid another case like this."
It's a move supported by Clintonvale's Judy Barnet, who has run Large Blacks on her property on the Cunningham Highway for more than a decade.
"Living on a major highway, I have always had some concerns about people mistaking my pigs for ferals and taking a pot shot," Ms Barnet said.
"We have been here since 2000 and had no trouble yet."
She said has had travellers stop to ask about the breed type but she had never had anyone mistake her animals for ferals.
"People often slow right down when driving past to look at the pigs in the front paddock.
"I have also had people call in to inquire about buying the pigs but I have never had anyone stop to ask or tell me I had feral pigs.
"Most breeds could survive in the wild however the Large Black could not survive due to their large lop ears which should come down to the tip of their nose - they just can't see everything that goes on which would make them easy prey to a pack of dogs or dingos."
A Southern Downs professional pig shooter also expressed his disappointment at the incident.
"It doesn't matter if you are a professional shooter or doing it recreationally, the very first thing you do is get permission from the property owners, no exceptions," he said.
"Incidents like this one at Dalveen tarnish the reputation of the majority of us shooters who do the right thing."
Large Blacks - large framed pig with straight back.
Ferals tend to have well developed forequarters falling away to narrow hindquarters.
Large Blacks have floppy ears which fall down over their eyes.
Ferals tend to have short, pointy ears.
Large Blacks tend to have shorter snouts than ferals.
And Large Blacks are typically a docile, easily handled, good natured breed.