Officials with the United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services (WS) are set to begin conducting tests of a new poison for feral hogs. These tests will begin within weeks in Texas and Alabama.
“With these in place (environmental assessments), 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,” said WS Deputy Administrator Bill Clay.
The EUP allows WS researchers to partner with landowners to identify and target 3 to 9 feral swine sounders (i.e., social groups containing adults and juveniles) each in Texas and Alabama.
Bait delivery systems designed to prevent access by non-target wildlife will be filled with placebo bait, placed in the sounders’ territories and monitored with motion-activated cameras. Following a period of acclimation to confirm feral swine use of the baiting areas, the placebo bait will be replaced with sodium nitrite toxic bait for two nights. Furthermore, at least 30 feral swine and no more than 30 raccoons in each state’s study area will be live captured and radio-collared prior to baiting in order to monitor their movements and exposure to the bait. Landowners within 300 meters/328 yards of bait stations will be notified and signs will be placed on bait stations and along roads leading into the study areas.
Sodium nitrite (NaNO2) is a meat preservative commonly used to cure meats such as sausage and bacon. When eaten in high doses over a short period of time, it is toxic to feral swine. The mode of death is similar to carbon monoxide poisoning. Once enough sodium nitrite bait is eaten, the feral swine gets faint, is rendered unconscious, and quickly dies. In most cases, feral swine die within 2.5 to 3 hours after eating a lethal dose.
According to USDA officials any factors are considered when developing a toxic bait for feral swine.
Not only must it be effective and humane in eliminating feral swine, but also low risk for those handling it, the environment, and wildlife. Other wildlife, such as raccoons, bears and deer, may be attracted to the sodium nitrite toxic bait. To prevent non-target species from accessing the bait, WS researchers will use delivery systems and baiting strategies designed for feral swine. Trials will not be conducted in areas with known black bear populations.
Texas has a small but growing population of protected black bears in the Trans Pecos.
Last year the proposed use of another toxin-warfarin-caused a major stir in the Texas outdoors community and eventually the company Scimetrics who produce the toxin pulled its application for use in Texas at this time.
Compiled by TF&G from USDA reports