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- Feral hogs are growing in numbers radically, and the damage is mounting on farms and ranches in at least 38 of the 50 states.
“We’re looking at all methods of feral swine management and the use of toxicants is one that deserves our scrutiny. But keep in mind, the process of testing through field trials on such things is extensive and it would be a number of years before approval could be secured from EPA and other agencies to use it commercially in the environment,” Avalos said.
Dr. Tyler Campbell, USDA/APHIS/NWRC in Gainesville, Florida, who has dedicated eight years to the study and research of feral swine in the U.S., says sodium nitrate may be a good choice for controlling swine populations in the wild.
“Sodium nitrate is commonly used to cure hams and sausage and used as a human food preservative, which might make it easier to pass rigorous EPA standards before approval is given for its use. The Australian company is Animal Control Technologies and they own the patent. We are working with them in developing feeder systems that are species specific for use with feral swine,” he said.
A feeder known as the “Hog Hopper” has two vertical doors that pigs can learn to push up to access the toxicant. Trials in the U.S. so far have been positive and Campbell says they may seek experimental use permits from EPA to conduct more comprehensive trials, but that could take up to two years before testing could be expanded.
Campbell works at USDA’s National Wildlife Research Lab, which is leading the way in feral swine research. So far 37 trials with the feeder have been conducted, but additional testing will be required before EPA would consider authorizing commercial use.
“We must make certain that only feral swine are targeted and other wildlife is protected when using any type of system of this nature, and that’s simply going to take time,” he added.
The New Mexico Initiative will use only traps and aerial hunting to lower feral swine numbers in the three designated areas.