Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Fight against feral hogs about to run out of money

USDA map; click on the image to enlarge it.

A five-year federal program to help eradicate invasive feral hogs and coyotes nationwide has only one year left to go, but New Mexico officials say the hogs are still a significant problem in their state.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that feral hogs cause about $1.5 billion in damage a year, with $800 million in direct damage to agriculture. In response, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service began a five-year eradication program in 2012 with an annual budget of $1 million. Funding for the program, which will end in Sept. 2018, is now only $400,000 per year. If the USDA wants to keep working on the program after that, more funding will have to be secured, Adrian Hedden reports for the Carlsbad Current-Argus.

The pigs can weigh more than 1,000 lbs. and grow to six feet long, and "They're just mean animals," New Mexico State University Agriculture Extension Agent Woods Houghton told Hedden. "They can sure eat up a freshly planted field easily. They get everything you planted. It's unbelievable what they can do to an alfalfa field."

While thousands of hogs have been removed by the program, the pigs breed all year, and sows can give birth to a litter of three to 18 piglets at just four to five months old. USDA District Supervisor for Wildlife Services Brian Archuleta said "Exponential population growth is a real possibility."

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