DENTON COUNTY, TX– As the feral hog population continues to expand in Texas and other parts of the country freeing up ways to control the invasive species is being discussed in the state legislature. Texas holds the distinction of possessing over half of the estimated six million wild pigs in North America. Populations continue to expand and costs from their direct damages to agriculture enterprises have reached an estimated $800 million annually in Texas. That’s not including golf courses and other recreation activities. Hunting, trapping, snaring, the use of trained dogs, and aerial operations have all been used to help reduce wild pig populations across the state.
The use of toxicants is another potential tool to reduce wild pig damage and prevent populations from growing and spreading. Many farmers and ranchers want to control feral hogs the best way they can. The push back has been from hunting groups and environmentalist that are worried about secondary poisoning affecting other species. The main two toxicants currently being looked at for control are warfarin and sodium nitrate. The legislature is looking at the state restriction on warfarin.
“A budget rider was proposed in the bill patterns for the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service that prohibits the use of warfarin-based feral hog toxicants that can be used to control the population growth of feral hogs,” Texas Farm Bureau Associate Legislative Director Harold Stone said. “But we hope the budget rider will be deleted from the bill patterns of the appropriation bill for these agencies, and that will allow them to spend appropriation money to research and certify these products that can be used for feral hog control by landowners.”
When most people think of toxicants they think of some old farmer pouring out a toxic compound that is available for all wildlife. That is not the case with the research that is currently being looked at. One of the research projects being conducted state and nation-wide is looking at bait stations that only open up for feral hogs. They are monitored by a computer that detects when to open the bait box. The half-life of the compounds is also being looked at. Can these products control feral hogs but not affect other wildlife and our human population?
Sodium nitrite is still under evaluation by the EPA to review the potential risks to human health. The bait is not labeled for public use yet, but the outlook for pesticide registration remains promising within the next few years. If approved, sodium nitrite should provide private landowners and wildlife managers with another tool in the management toolbox.
“Even though hunting is a reasonable control method, there’s no way we can hunt ourselves out of this problem,” Stone said. “We don’t want to inhibit any means of control, whether it’s hunting, trapping, whatever. We just want to be able to add another tool to the landowner to be able to manage this problem.”
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension provides equal opportunities in its programs and employment to all persons, regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, genetic information, veteran status, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas Cooperating