To combat Louisiana’s feral hog problem, one University researcher looked for a sweeter
answer — gummy bears.
AgCenter animal science researcher Glen Gentry found the hogs took a special liking to the candy, but the gummy bears did not react well with the sodium nitrite added used to poison the pigs, so he turned to a different department for help.
“I came in to add sodium nitrite, and it fumed and spewed and did nasty things,” Gentry said. “So that’s when I went to see somebody smarter than me.”
Gentry teamed up with School of Renewable Natural Resources professor Zhijun Liu to create a gummy bear-like ball to better hide the chemical.
Liu added fragrances like milk, pineapple and popcorn to the gummy bear-like substance to appeal to pigs and hide the scent of sodium nitrite.
However, the taste is still evident. The next step is to add the taste of the smells they have incorporated so hogs will consume the bait.
Gentry said the Food Science Department has a product it hopes to use to cover up the bitter taste of electrolytes in sports drinks, which could also be used in the AgCenter’s bait for hogs in the future.
Natural resource ecology and management junior Jamie Amato said the problem with feral hogs is their reproduction rates and their destructiveness.
“They tear up everything, and they reproduce so fast, so that’s why keeping the population down is such a struggle,” Amato said. “For the most part, it’s just been hard to find effective ways to control them.”
Although Louisiana has a quarter of as many feral hogs as Texas, the numbers are still considered a problem in the state.
“When you do the math, it comes out to the same density per square mile (as Texas). We have about, at half a million, ten pigs per square mile, which is what Texas has,” Gentry said.
Nationally, wild hogs, with a population around 10 million, cause damages costing almost $1.5 billion a year, according to the AgCenter’s wesbite.
Hogs contaminate waterways, damage crops and spread disease to cattle Gentry said.
Gentry hopes to get rid of 70 to 80 percent of the feral hog
population in Louisiana now, but this decrease would only hold population numbers where they are now.
“People transport them and put them in other places in order to hunt them,” Amato said. “And then they just populate and thrive because they don’t really have any natural predators here and they’ll eat just about anything.”