USDA funds, poison could help eliminate feral hog population - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

USDA funds, poison could help eliminate feral hog population

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SMITH COUNTY (KYTX) - The fight against the growing feral hog population will be getting more reinforcement from the US Department of Agriculture. Twenty  million dollars is being allocated country-wide to help landowners battle the problem.

CBS 19's Katiera Winfrey explains  what type of help people can expect to see.

The feral hog problem has gotten worse with time. Over the past thirty years, hog presence has gone from 17 states to 39 states. The damage caused to land and crops add up to about 2 billion dollars each year.

This USDA's potential new method of eradicating the hog population would involve poison.

Packs of wild pigs, have been ravaging farms, pastures and front lawns for years.

"The Texas wild pig problem is very serious, as a matter of fact we are in war with wild pigs in the state," said Texas A & M extension agency professor Billy Higginbotham.

So far, the wild pigs have had the upper hand, causing millions in damage while growing to nearly 3 million in Texas alone.With help from the USDA, the battle could ease up.

"The USDA, APHIS wildlife services are giving a  20 million dollar allocation, about half will be spend on state projects to stop population and some spent on research," Higginbotham said.

The 20 million dollars will be split between 39 states with feral hogs. It'll be used to control property damage, monitor disease, monitor the hog economic impacts, and research that will test the effectiveness of poisoning pigs with sodium nitrate.Sodium nitrate is commonly used to cure bacon, it has no effect on humans.

"The animals could be impacted that are able to access the bait," said Higginbotham.  However, the USDA has a lot of testing to do.

"Mechanism only pigs can access, only pigs can gain access."

Joey Cocker owns Hog Hit men.

"On pace to kill 500 or 600 wild pigs here in east Texas."

Cocker and his team are hired out to farmers and cattle ranchers dealing with wild pig damage.

"We have a place we hunt and there's no telling how much he loses a month, maybe in the thousands."

With specialized thermal and night vision gear, they help weed out the pigs.

"There's no one sure way of getting rid of the hogs...all that together is slowing it down a little bit.

He said, he's optimistic on the help the USDA's funds will provide, however, the eradication process is going to be tough.

A pilot program has already been implemented in New Mexico. So far more than 5 million acres of land has been cleared of feral hogs.

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