Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Texas seeks feral 'hog apocalypse' with pesticide that some fear could harm other animals

Feral hogs (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)
Texas officials say they have found a way to eliminate the state's feral hog problem: pesticides. Last month Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller "announced a rule change in the Texas Administrative Code that classifies a warfarin-based compound called "Kaput Feral Hog Lure" as a state-limited-use pesticide." Miller said in a statement: “This solution is long overdue. Wild hogs have caused extensive damage to Texas lands and loss of income for many, many years. With the introduction of this first hog lure, the ‘hog apocalypse' may finally be on the horizon.”

Miller said there are about two million feral hogs in Texas that eat newborn lambs, uproot crops and "entire city parks," trampling across highways and causing more than $50 million in damage a year, Avi Selk reports for The Washington Post. When pigs eat the pesticide "it kills them slowly, often painfully and turns their innards blue. It’s already wiped out swine herds in Australia, which later banned the product as inhumane." The Environmental Protection Agency in January approved it.

Miller's rule change has already led more than 3,000 people to sign the Texas Hog Hunters Association’s petition against Miller’s chemical war, Selk writes. One concern is that other species might eat the poison, said Tyler Campbell, a former researcher with the U.S. Deparment of Agriculture who led the agency’s feral-hog studies in Kingsville, Texas, when warfarin was first tested on pigs. Campbell said the poison can paralyze chickens, make rats vomit and kill all manner of animals.

"The EPA regulations—which Texas plans to strengthen by licensing warfarin’s use—requires hogs to be fed the poison out of bins with 10-pound lids," Selk writes. "The lid tactic won’t work, Campbell said. Before retiring from government research a few years ago, he saw a study in which raccoons lifted much heavier lids in search of food."

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