With 6.3 million wild pigs rampaging across 39 states and causing up to $2.5 billion in damages each year, researchers are hopeful a new oral toxicant will help curb wild pig populations.
In a significant testing boost approved Nov. 6, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Wildlife Services (WS) was granted an Experimental Use Permit (EUP) by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to run sodium nitrite field trials on free-roaming wild pigs in Alabama and Texas.
The EUP enables researchers to partner with landowners and target multiple sounders. According to an APHIS release, species-specific feeders will be initially filled with placebo bait and monitored with cameras. After habituation, the feeders will be filled with sodium nitrite bait for a two-night trial. Prior to the trial, approximately 30 wild pigs and raccoons in the vicinity will be live-captured and fitted with radio collars to monitor movement and exposure to the toxicant.
For more, see Revenge of the Wild Pigs Goes Toxic
Sodium nitrite is a preservative commonly used to cure bacon. When consumed in high doses over a short period of time, it is toxic to wild pigs and capable of suffocating a wild pig from the inside out. Typically, wild pigs lose consciousness and death occurs within 2.5 to 3 hours after consuming a lethal dose of sodium nitrite.
“Wildlife Services takes the selection and use of toxic baits for use in wildlife damage management very seriously. The final environmental assessment, FONSI and EUP are the result of years of collaborative research by WS and multiple private, state, federal and international partners,” says Bill Clay, WS deputy administrator. “With these in place, we can now begin field trials to help determine the effectiveness of the sodium nitrite toxic bait for removing feral swine sounders in natural settings, as well as any potential impacts to non-target wildlife.”
“Although trapping, aerial operations, and recreational hunting of feral swine have effectively reduced damage in some areas, studies show that at least 70 percent of feral swine must be removed each year in order to prevent population growth,” adds Clay. “Should the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approve the toxic bait for use with feral swine, it could become another tool in the toolbox for integrated feral swine damage management.”
See APHIS’ factsheet for more information.