State and federal wildlife managers in New Mexico are making progress in their fight against feral pigs.
They say they have eliminated the majority of invasive porkers from 10 counties, and progress is being made in another seven counties where the pigs have taken up residency.
Alan May, state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Service Division in Albuquerque, said federal hunters tracked down and eliminated about 700 pigs last year as part of a $1 million pilot project. Most of the work was done across New Mexico's eastern plains.
Most of the pigs removed were female, which should put a dent in the population's ability to multiply.
The results have been good despite some uncooperative private landowners hindering the effort, he said. "We will continue to work with those few folks to explain the importance of what we're trying to do so we can hopefully achieve statewide eradication someday," May said.
Feral pigs have made themselves at home across more than three quarters of the U.S. and are responsible for an estimated $1.5 billion in damages each year. In one year alone, federal managers trapped and killed more than 32,000 pigs from 28 states and collected thousands of samples to check for the nearly three dozen diseases feral pigs are capable of carrying and passing on to humans, livestock and other wildlife.
Introduced by Spanish explorers centuries ago, pigs began to expand their range. Hunters complicated matters by importing Eurasian boars to the U.S. for sport. Generations in the wild, the pigs have evolved into survivors, willing to eat just about anything and capable of traversing some of the most rugged territory.
Ranchers and farmers have complained for years about the damage feral pigs can cause. But the loss of crops and the spread of noxious weeds by the pigs are proving to be more challenging in times of drought.
Eradication efforts in the northeastern corner of the state will continue, but the new focus will include two counties in New Mexico's Bootheel region, officials said.