Texas Hunters Want to Put the Kibosh on Ag Commissioner’s ‘Feral Hog Apocalypse’
The “feral hog apocalypse” is brought to you by Big Wildlife: The same folks who gave us CWD.
NOTE: This post initially appeared on SAExpressNews.com on February 22, 2017
State Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller’s call for a “feral hog apocalypse” has hunters across Texas up in arms about what they see as a poison being unleashed against a perfectly good source of barbecue meat.
At issue is Miller’s approval of Kaput Feral Hog Lure to cut down on a hog population that has gotten out of control in Texas and other states.
Miller touts the move as a “major new weapon” in the Lone Star State’s arsenal against the hogs. He also says it means the Texas Department of Agriculture no longer needs the $900,000 in state funding earmarked for feral hog control research.
“Wild hogs have caused extensive damage to Texas lands and loss of income for many, many years,” Miller said. “I am pleased to announce that the ‘feral hog apocalypse’ may be within Texans’ reach.”
The pesticide’s key ingredient is warfarin, which depending on its concentration is used both as a human blood thinner and a poison for rats. Miller approved a rule change in the Texas Administrative Code allowing it to be classified as a state-limited use pesticide, which means it can be bought and applied by a licensed applicator or someone under that applicator’s watch.
In an interview Wednesday in San Antonio, Miller described how the hogs would be lured to special feeders with 16-pound lids that deer and other wildlife wouldn’t be able to open.
“The hogs come in and they eat the bait; and usually in one to three days, they will be eradicated,” he said.
He said Scimetrics, the Colorado-based manufacturer of Kaput, had asked him to help find manufacturers to make the feeders.
But while Miller says the product is safe and unlikely to be accidentally ingested by people — it turns the fat of the animal that consumes it blue — those who hunt hogs for food and sport think the commissioner hasn’t thought the move through.
“The stand that we take is we do not believe adding a poison into the environment is the correct answer to this,” said Scott Dover of the Texas Hog Hunters Association, a statewide group that by Tuesday night, just hours after Miller’s announcement, had close to 2,500 signatures of people opposing the pesticide.
“You’ve got to look at the potential down the food chain, so to speak,” Dover said. “The hog ingests that poison and goes off to somewhere else. Then you’ve got your scavenger animals, coyotes, buzzards, anything else that comes in there and eats on that animal that could potentially be contaminated with that warfarin product as well. And it may not take nearly as much to kill a coyote or a buzzard as it would the hog.”
Hogwash, Miller said of the hunters’ concerns.
“They’re simply misinformed,” Miller said, pointing out that the levels of warfarin in Kaput only required a caution label as opposed to the skull and crossbones label put on poisons.
Warfarin sold over the counter as rat and mice bait is 0.025 percent warfarin, he said, while the Kaput hog bait is 0.005 percent warfarin, or one-fifth the strength. A human would have to consume 2 pounds of warfarin-eradicated hog liver to get the amount of warfarin that’s in Coumadin, he said, referring to one of the brand names of the blood thinner.
“If we wanted to do it, we could just sell it over the counter with no license; but we’re not going to do that,” he said. “We want people to be responsible with it, even though we’re confident it’s not going to cause anything any harm.”
Miller, who at the start of the year was on the short list of President Donald Trump’s choices to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is no stranger to making headlines with unorthodox moves, such as making a show of allowing cupcakes into schools when they’d never been banned and announcing the return of deep fryers at the bottom of a news release on healthy schools.
Few would disagree with Miller wanting to do something about a feral hog population that in Texas as well as the rest of the U.S. has gotten out of control and shows no signs of slowing down.
What started in the 1500s with a few pigs transported by European settlers as a food source has grown to about 2.6 million wayward pigs wreaking an annual $52 million worth of damage to crops and ranchlands in just Texas, home of the nation’s largest feral hog population.
The TDA estimates landowners are spending about $7 million a year in what has been a futile fight against animals that can grow to several hundred pounds and are able to push their way through just about any fence. And with sows producing litters of about five to six pigs every nine months or so, the numbers are expanding exponentially.
“Some of our farmers and ranchers are near desperation in their efforts to control these destructive pests,” Gene Hall, spokesman of the Texas Farm Bureau, said Wednesday in an email. Hall said the Farm Bureau was studying Miller’s announcement and wasn’t ready to comment.
Jeremy Fuchs, spokesman for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, said his organization supported the warfarin use.
“We have long encouraged university researchers and the pharmaceutical industry to develop a safe and effective product to control feral swine,” Fuchs said. “Feral hogs are nocturnal, have extremely short gestation periods and large litters. These factors, even with other methods of control, make it difficult to effectively reduce the population of this invasive species.
“We believe that if used properly and in accordance with all regulations, the use of warfarin could help control the feral hog population without sacrificing safety,” he said.
David Haehn, founder of Belton-based Hogs for a Cause, said the TDA numbers are years old now and likely underestimate the feral hog population and its costs. Even so, he’s in agreement with the hunters.
Members of Hogs for a Cause hunt or trap hogs around Texas, then donate the meat to food banks and orphanages that he said appreciate the fresh meat.
In addition, Haehn has had plenty of experience trying to help landowners and municipalities get rid of the hogs, and he said he doesn’t see the warfarin doing much good.
Helicopter hunts for hogs, which Miller as a Texas House member in 2011 helped make legal, are effective until hogs start running under trees or into brushy areas, Haehn said.
While high-tech electronic trapping systems work well, they can cost upward of $4,000 and need vigilant maintenance and monitoring. In his view, it’s going to take a concerted effort by multiple agencies and lots of cooperative landowners, not to mention a lot of money, to really make a dent.
“We have ranches where we’ve taken over 400 hogs off,” he said. “The ranchers don’t have the time and a lot of money to spend on hogs when they’re trying to raise cattle and everything else, and so it becomes a dilemma. But there’s definitely a problem. The herd is doubling every three to five years.”
Warfarin has been tried as a hog control method in Australia, but without much success, Haehn said.
“I don’t see widespread use of it,” Haehn said. “The larger animals cannot consume enough to kill them. The pigs aren’t going to die at the feeder; they’re going to be miles (away from ) the feeder when they die. What is the persistency of the chemical in the hogs? And if you spend any time trapping the animals, you know that they don’t come to bait every night. It’s a long-term process.”
“What I’ve found out is that for eliminating hogs, it’s going to take a lot of hard work. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and it’s going to take a lot of money.”
Here is an exchange with a wildlife manager pal of many years:
Big Deer Guys brought us CWD [Chronic Wasting Disease]. At least to Texas. There’s a ton of misinformation out there about the Warfarin issue. Most of which ignores the fact that Kaput was approved as a general use pesticide by EPA.
I think if it was allowed in a cropland setting (certain counties) and restricted to April – August application it could be another tool in the tool box. The considerable label restrictions make it somewhat onerous to apply for most folks. Major crop producers could use this effectively as they are the ones taking the most real monetary damage.
To which I responded:
Thanks for commenting. I always appreciate your input; here is how I see it.
As with so many things, it depends when you start your analysis. Deer breeders did not start Chronic Wasting Disease. CWD began in a Colorado wildlife agency experimental station in Ft. Collins. The agency community has amnesia about what was being done to those animals. Their disinformation spin is that CWD “appeared” spontaneously. CWD was then spread when the wildlife agency transferred infected animals to other facilities.
CWD first appeared in far-West Texas due to animal migrations from New Mexico, and later in Central Texas due to deer imports by the breeders to whom you correctly refer. Many causes including high fences, artificial feeding, predator control, range poisons and various other “management” practices accelerate CWD’s spread.
Every practice that I have mentioned (and other harmful ones not mentioned) is or has been practiced, promoted or otherwise encouraged by the wildlife management community, including TPWD. The CWD beneficiaries are, broadly speaking, the agencies who now “protect” us from the unintended consequences of their stupidities with more inappropriate actions, like the “feral hog apocalypse”, which will lead to more unintended consequences and inappropriate responses in a downward spiral.
Warfarin is rat poison. EPA—long coopted by Big Ag including the agrochemical giants—sanctions their poisons all the time. A gross example is glyphosate (Roundup), a known carcinogen which is implicated in many diseases: Glyphosate residuals are in almost everything we drink, eat and wear.
Feral pigs, according to wildlife and food quality “experts”, are unfit to eat because they carry diseases. But, over the last 30 years in Texas, we have slaughtered and tested tens of thousands of animals without finding diseased pigs (don’t confuse parasites with diseases.) Factory farms, on the other hand, are breeding grounds for pig epidemics.
The Euros have higher safety standards than we do and they readily accept our free range pork. Instead of feeding rat poisons to wildlife, let us remove regulations and allow landowners to round up our pigs and sell them for cash money to the meatpackers just like we did until Big Agriculture made doing this illegal.
Who opposes this common sense? The confinement pork producers—who are now dominated by the Chinese—and their cronies, our “pure” food protectors, for whom the feral pig “solution” is a source of pork (the pun is intentional).
The “feral pig apocalypse” is a costly bureaucratic poisoning boondoggle that will harm wildlife in incalculable ways. There is an obvious alternative that will make money for your clients.
I agree! There’s no telling how many wild pigs have been handled and eaten by farmers, ranchers and outdoorsmen, and I’ve never heard of an illness related to that.
Back in the days when pigs weren’t a problem, Texas had a lot more bears.
TPWD had been researching using sodium nitrite which is used to preserve bacon. Haven’t heard much about that lately. I don’t think any toxicant is going to provide much large scale control since the EPA required delivery systems are pretty complex and expensive.
The old timers rounded up hogs with dogs and drove them to market. That’s a lost art that may need to be revived. In fact that is the origin of the Lacey dog, the State Dog of Texas!
I’ve hunted them from a helicopter and I’m not sure how well that would work rounding them up. In much of Texas, helicopters don’t work for gathering, counting, or shooting anything due to the tree canopy. Trapping is still the most effective control method and it really doesn’t work that great as far as providing significant control.
I think [Agriculture] Commissioner Miller way overstated the benefits of Warfarin for hog control and I think hunters and others way over-reacted to his remarks.
Properly regulated in a row crop setting and under the right label restrictions Kaput could be for some crop producers another tool in the tool box.
Any doofus right now can buy Warfarin rat bait in HEB.
When you figure out how to round those hogs up we need to patent the process!
Make it legal and profitable and every kid will have his pig trap. Let a free market solve the problem the monopolists and the bureaucrats created.