Pest control company withdraws poison registration in Texas as feral hogs ravage crops

Crops in Wellington suffered damage caused by feral hogs. (Andy Wheatly/Finch Ranch Helicopter Service)

AMARILLO, Texas (KVII) - At least $50 million of damage is caused by feral hogs in Texas each year, according to wildlife experts.

“It gets worse every year and if somebody doesn’t do something about it, then it’s going to cause a lot more trouble than it’s causing now," Andy Wheatly, owner of Finch Ranch Helicopter Service, said.

Wheatly airily hunts feral hogs for landowners, based out of Hedley. That’s one tactic Texas Wildlife Services said folks are using to reduce the two to three million hogs in Texas.

“We aren’t ever going to get rid of all the pigs, but at least we can control them and knock them back a little bit and at least give those guys time to get their crop up," Wheatly said.

Rick Gilliland, Canyon District supervisor of Texas Wildlife Services, said the hogs are not only dangerous for livestock, game animals and humans but devastating to farmland.

“A farmer may check his crop on Monday and come back next Friday to check it again and it will be totally destroyed because of the heavy presence of hogs in the area," Gilliland said. “We have one of the highest populations in the nation along with California, Florida and Oklahoma. We bear the brunt of a big portion of that damage ourselves.”

In February, the Texas Department of Agriculture introduced Kaput Feral Hog Bait, a Warfarin-based pesticide, but that tactic is no longer available.

The poison was set to be released May 1, however, pressure from folks opposing the bait has placed it on hold.

"Toxicants have been considered for a long time for feral hogs," Gilliland said. "The problem is you have to have something that is safe and selective and that’s not going to cause environmental issues, otherwise.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has approved this pesticide but opposition from folks still concerned about its safety as well as impact on the hunting and meat industry prompted the company, Scimetrics Ltd Corp, to withdraw its registration of the bait in Texas.

The company said it was under the threat of lawsuits and can’t risk the disruption that comes with competing with those with larger resources to sustain the legal battle.

Opponents of the poison tactic say it's too risky. Supporters say while it would help, it's not the final solution to getting rid of the creatures.

“It would have been good as far as I’m concerned," Wheatly said. "It’s not going to get rid of all the pigs. It’s not a miracle cure but it would have helped in places.”

Gilliland said due to the reproductive rate of feral hogs, to get to an appreciative level of control, 75 percent of the population would have to be killed every six months. So, their own infectious diseases they travel with may be the only answer.

“Nature may step in at some point, once the population gets so dense that it takes care of itself," Gilliland said. "That would be catastrophic in the sense that it probably wouldn’t just be limited to feral hogs.”

Scimetrics could re-register in Texas in the future, but the Texas House of Representatives has also passed a bill requiring further study on the effects of this poison.

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