While USDA has been active in monitoring and working with states to help control feral swine populations, until now an all out federal effort to eradicate feral swine hasn’t been launched, and for good reason. The cost of attempting to eradicate the estimated two million feral swine in Texas, for example, would require a massive budget, larger perhaps than the entire budget for the State Department of Agriculture, and even then success would be difficult if not impossible given the numbers. But that may not be true in New Mexico where feral swine are a relatively small though escalating problem. Population numbers are low, though growing rapidly.

“We think we have a pretty good shot at eradication of the feral swine population of New Mexico, says Alan May, State Director for USDA Wildlife Services in Albuquerque. “We don’t have the large numbers they do in Texas. “If we act early, we think we may be able to prevent an awfully lot of economic, environmental and public health problems associated with feral swine.”

May said that while eradication efforts would be concentrated to three specific areas where feral swine populations are the greatest, the undertaking of a comprehensive program involving trapping and hunting feral swine is a massive undertaking and would require local, state and federal participation.

After talking with various officials and private property owners in the three designated areas where swine problems are developing, officials representing the Mescalero Apache Indian Tribe and the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, and various state and county officials petitioned USDA Under Secretary Edward Avalos for federal support of an initiative to declare war against the wild pig population of the state.

 

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“Working through (USDA) Wildlife Services in New Mexico, the partners in this initiative asked for funding of a pilot project for addressing control methods of the feral swine problem there. USDA agreed to put $1 million into the project, but local partners are putting in $300,000 of their own, including in-kind services to expedite this initiative,” Under Secretary Avalos told Southwest Farm Press.

Avalos says New Mexico is the first state to tackle a comprehensive statewide project to eradicate the feral swine population and says he believes there is a good chance the program will be successful. He says with eradication as the objective, even a substantial reduction in feral swine numbers would represent a major success in helping the state minimize negative effects of the invasive species.

The three areas of concern in New Mexico include the middle Rio Grande Valley because of the large amount of irrigated agriculture subject to damage, the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation near Ruidoso because the U.S. Forest Service is already doing some eradication work and on the reservation is a potential risk to water quality because of the large number of fresh water springs, and the Southeastern part of New Mexico from the Pecos River east to the Texas State line where feral swine populations are growing.

Avalos says the pilot program will run through the end of this fiscal year, which ends in September, but local officials hope to seek additional funding to keep the project going.

In response to a question about the use of toxicants to control feral swine populations, a practice that is growing in popularity in Australia, Avalos says the use of toxicants in the U.S. is against the law. But he says as part of their ongoing feral swine research, they have been in contact with a private Australian company that is promoting the use of sodium nitrate for eradication.