State looking at ways to control feral hogs

Avoyelles among parishes with most damage from wild pigs


    Controlling the feral hog epidemic will probably require chemical control, an LSU AgCenter researcher said at a workshop in Alexandria on May 31.
   Avoyelles County Agent Justin Dufour wants to hold another meeting on the subject in Avoyelles Parish later this summer. He said many  farmers and producers in the parish were unable to attend the Alexandria workshop.
   LSU AgCenter animal scientist Glen Gentry said hunting and trapping hogs is inefficient, a large-scale contraceptive strategy has yet to be found and the wild pig population continues to increase. 
   “The expansion of the pig population across the United States is not done,” Gentry said.
  LSU AgCenter economist Shaun Tanger estimated the damage and losses from pigs on Louisiana agriculture at $74 million a year, with sugarcane and rice farmers reporting the most damage.
   Dufour said Avoyelles Parish is one of the parishes sustaining the most damage from hogs, mostly in sugarcane and soybeans with lesser damage to corn and rice crops.
   “When you look at the map of damage done by feral hogs, Avoyelles is part of a ‘channel’ that runs next to the Mississippi River that seems to have the most damage,” Dufour noted. “The population of feral hogs continues to explode across the parish and state.” 
  To maintain the current too-large population of wild hogs, Gentry said 70-75 percent of the pigs would have to be eliminated each year. 
  The AgCenter is continuing research into the use of sodium nitrite, a chemical used as a food preservative. While it is lethal to pigs, the chemical rapidly decomposes when exposed to air or water. The researchers are testing different encapsulation materials to prevent the chemical’s breakdown until after the pig eats the sodium nitrite-laced bait.
   “I believe that is what is holding us up right now,” Gentry added.
   Dufour said Avoyelles has not been part of those experiments yet. However, the parish has offered trapping of the hogs. He said those who trap hogs can harvest the animal.
  Gentry said research has shown pigs are attracted to dried fish that can be used as bait. An invasive species, Asian carp, is being tested as a possible hog bait.
  “Maybe we can kill two birds with one stone,” he said.
  The Asian carp is not to be confused with the grass carp, which is a beneficial species for controlling aquatic vegetation in areas such as Spring Bayou.
  Another challenge with the poison program is the challenge of ensuring that only the targeted pest is affected. Other animals, such as the Louisiana black bear, are also attracted to the same type of baits. 
  Gentry said some feeders have been invented that could prevent the bait from being eaten by other species.
  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued an experimental use permit for testing warfarin or rat poison on pigs, he said. That research is being conducted by Genesis Laboratories in Colorado.
  Gentry said he believes a chemical will be approved to control hogs, but it will be sold as a restricted use pesticide and “won’t be sold like rat poison.”
State veterinarian Dr. Jonathan Roberts said new feral swine regulations restrict where wild hogs can be relocated, require that relocation be done only by authorized transporters and mandate the hogs be kept in a permitted facility. The hogs can be kept by private individuals if the pens holding the animals are inspected and approved by the Agriculture & Forestry Department.
  Richard Vlosky, director of the LSU AgCenter Forestry Products Development Center, said a survey of farmers showed that half of the respondents had crop damage from pigs.      Most of those answering the survey disagreed that wild pigs are being managed effectively by state and federal agencies.
  “I feel it is important for the Avoyelles farmers to have a meeting concerning this issue,” Dufour said. “Some farmers are having major problems and they need to hear some of the possible solutions concerning the controlling of hogs.”