Officials from New Mexico and the USDA have teamed up to wage war against an invasive species taking over the region – feral hogs.
According to an Associated Press report, feral hogs have invaded more than 75 percent of the United States and cause $1.5 billion in damages annually. The animals have already over-run Texas and expanding in neighboring states, but land managers believes New Mexico may be the perfect location to “top the balance.”
State and federal land managers are willing to bet $1 million in federal funds on a yearlong project to eradicate the animals and develop methods to better control them in other parts of the country.
This project is the first time the USDA has united with state officials to get rid of feral pigs.
"We're trying to get ahead of the curve with this so we can prevent a lot of the damage that we know will be coming if we don't do anything about it," said USDA Wildlife Services state director Alan May. "Sport hunting pressure alone won't be enough to stop a population from spreading."
A team of both state and federal employees have been trained to stalk, trap and kill New Mexico’s feral hogs, focusing on the most effective methods in fighting feral swine.
Unfortunately, the team is tackling an uphill battle with the powerful porkers. Their ability to learn from each encounter and escape traps will make feral hogs a versatile combatant.
"They're much brighter than I am," said Ray Powell, a veterinarian and New Mexico's land commissioner. "If they had the dexterity, they'd be driving vehicles around. I mean these guys are really smart."
Feral swine are prolific reproducing machines, and in a recent report Texas A&M scientists estimate that the population of feral hogs in the Lone Star State alone could triple within five years if left unchecked. Even with a “high harvest” rate of 41 percent, the wild pig population would still grow by 12 percent each year.