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Scientists to Field-Test Bait Program for Feral Hog Problem

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Tony Maples Photography


Feral hogs are on record for over $1.5 billion per year in damage throughout the U.S. and as a result, scientists are now taking steps to try and control them. By field-testing poison baits, they may be taking the population management to another level. The swine that eat enough of the baits (made with sodium nitrite – a preservative which is used for curing sausage and bacon) show symptoms which resemble carbon dioxide poisoning. After ingesting the baits, they become uncoordinated, will lose consciousness, and within 90 minutes of consuming it, will die.

Tests will commence in early 2018 in central Alabama as well as West Texas using the special bait which can keep an animal’s red blood cells from taking in oxygen. With pigs, their potential to make very low levels of the counteracting enzyme makes them more likely to succumb to it. To many farmers, whose properties have been completely ruined by these pests, this can be a true blessing. But, not only do these animals cause damage to property, they can also spread several diseases. As well, their wallowing and rooting can destroy terrain, dirty waterways and expose river and creek banks to erosion. And, uncultivated areas which are rooted up by the hogs have the potential for invasive plants to take over. In conjunction, these animals compete with others in the food chain. Deer, turkey, quail, and sea turtles have all had various issues resulting from the explosion of this nuisance population.

Forty-one states had joined the 2014 USDA’s feral swine control program. Two dropped out after going two years without any confirmed feral hog sightings. It’s believed that five other states are free of the animal, and are presently in a two-year evaluation period to make sure. If these field trial results are positive, this new bait may receive federal approval in 2020, but over the first several years of testing, landowners will be required to have the USDA set up any baits and feeders through this program. This method won’t replace helicopter hunts, trapping, or any other methods, but it could prove to be a powerful weapon in the anti-hog arsenal.