This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Using Unoccupied Aircraft System (UAS) to Assess Crop Damage by Wild Pigs in Alabama




Fay, Arielle

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Forestry and Wildlife Science


Agriculture is essential for human sustenance and global economies, cultures, and societies. However, wildlife damage to crops can significantly diminish productivity, necessitating effective mitigation strategies. Among the most destructive species are wild pigs (Sus scrofa), renowned for their severe impact on row crop damage through consumption, rooting, and trampling. In our study, we assessed the extent of wild pig damage to row crop fields in southern Alabama, USA. We utilized aerial imagery collected via unoccupied aircraft systems (UAS) and developed detection models using deep learning algorithms to quantify damage. Additionally, we evaluated the economic ramifications of wild pig damage on row crops and analyzed surrounding landscape elements as potential predictors of field predation by wild pigs. We successfully developed detection models with over 90% accuracy for corn and peanut crops. However, our attempts to develop a similar model for cotton proved infeasible due to flying at too high of an altitude, resulting in a ground sampling distance (GSD) with a resolution that was too large. Corn experienced more frequent damage compared to peanuts and the average amount of damage was greater for damaged corn fields (0.12 ha, 6.28% overall field damage) than damaged peanut fields (0.08 ha, 0.38% overall field damage). However, the cumulative losses were greater for peanut (n = 23 fields, $5,675.18, averaged $16.13/ha across damaged fields) than corn (n = 6 fields, $3,164.05, $49.21/ha). Furthermore, crop type, distance to water, and landscape patch density were significant contributors to the likelihood of wild pig-induced damage. Our findings offer valuable insights for policymakers, landowners, and wildlife managers striving to combat the challenges posed by wild pig predation in agricultural landscapes. By integrating ecological understanding with practical management strategies, we can effectively address the adverse impacts of wild pig predation and sustain agricultural productivity.