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Texas Approves Pesticide Targeting Wild Pigs

But hunters and conservationists are concerned that other animals will be exposed to the toxin

Wild pigs lack natural predators in much of the United States. (Public Domain)
smithsonian.com

Earlier this week, Sid Miller, the Texas Agriculture Commissioner, changed the Texas Administrative Code to allow for the limited use of poison lures to keep wild hogs in check. The move comes as Texans (and folks around the country) have grown increasingly frustrated with rapidly growing and rampant feral pig populations.

Writing for Gizmodo earlier this month, Ryan F. Mandelbaum reports that feral hogs annually cost the U.S. $1.5 billion. Lacking any natural predators in much of the country, the invasive pigs run roughshod on crops across parts of 39 states, particularly in the south.

The pigs have especially flourished in Texas, with an estimated population in excess of 1.5 million. Asher Price of the Austin American-Statesman reports the feral hogs cause at least $50 million in damages per year through destruction of crops, livestock tanks, and untold damage to manicured suburban landscapes.

After years of unchecked population growth—sows typically produce two litters a year of four to six piglets per litter, Price writes—Texans appear to finally have had enough. The state already kills over 27,500 hogs a year on average through aerial killing (via helicopters), but Miller hopes the chemical approach will give humans the upper hand.

“If you want them gone, this will get them gone,” Miller tells Price.

To combat the pigs, Miller approved the use of a pesticide called "Kaput Feral Hog Lure." Price explains that the product is baited food laced with warfarin, a blood thinner used for humans that is lethal to hogs.

But the revision of state rules has upset hunters who prefer hunting and trapping methods over chemicals. Over 8,700 hunters have signed on in opposition to the measure.

Hunters and conservationists opposed to the change in the code are concerned that scavengers like coyotes and buzzards may be exposed to the poison and spread it throughout the ecosystem. As Eydin Hansen, the vice president of the Texas Hog Hunters Association, tells CBS News, “We don’t think poison is the way to go.”

Kaput refutes this argument, however, and claims the low toxicity product poses a “decreased risk to non-targets.” The Environmental Protection Agency approved the use of the product in January.

Texas is by no means the only place grappling with the effects of burgeoning non-native mammal populations. In a battle to maintain its native flora and fauna, New Zealand engages in a constant struggle with feral tabbies, rabbits, possums, overgrazing deer, and other pests. And some scientists are arguing for controls on outdoor domestic cats that ravage bird populations.

In some cases, even native species require occasional control. Rocky Mountain National Park uses “lethal reduction” to control its elk population, which has grown too large for the ecosystem since the removal of wolves decades ago.

There is no easy way to reduce unwanted invasive species—just ask Florida about its python problem. As Hansen suggests, Texas’ new measure is sure to be controversial. But it is increasingly clear to everyone involved that something has to be done to contain the wild pigs.

About Aaron Sidder

Aaron Sidder is an ecologist and a freelance science writer based in Denver, CO. He is a former AAAS Mass Media Fellow whose work has appeared National Geographic and Eos.

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