Scientists in Colorado Use DNA to Track Wild Pigs

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Texas Public Radio recently spoke with Biologist Morgan Wehtje about her work with eDNA. Wehtje works closely with feral pigs at the National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins. There are several pigs on the property that are comfortable with humans and have food and water provided to them, but pigs out in the wild “in most U.S. states — inflict an estimated $1.5 billion in damage per year.” They tear up yards, eat crops, and sometimes kill smaller livestock.

In order to track these wild pigs, Wehtje uses environmental DNA or eDNA. She adds water from the land she’s testing to a special solution and studies it to figure out if the pigs have visited the area. Wehtje then gives this information to Brian Archuleta, a U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service wildlife biologist who wants to eradicate the wild pigs from the wild by September 2017.

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, feral hogs live for about five years, and they come in different colors and “may reach a shoulder height of 36 inches and weigh from 100 to over 400 pounds.” They’re not to be confused with javelinas, which are smaller and part of a separate family of mammals.