Hunters worried about state plan to control hogs with pesticide

Images of feral hogs captured through a night vision camera (Courtesy: David Haehn)
Images of feral hogs captured through a night vision camera (Courtesy/David Haehn)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas agriculture officials have a new strategy to fight what they call an “ongoing war” with feral hogs. Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has approved the use of warfarin-based products to control them.

In humans, the drug warfarin is used as a blood thinner. When used as a pesticide, it can be deadly to animals. According to Miller’s office, extensive testing of warfarin has been conducted in Texas since 2008. They hope to give agriculture producers and landowners in Texas a new tool to fight the destructive hogs.

According to a spokesman, there are special feeders engineered for the hogs in order to limit the bait to the feral hog population. There are also procedures for “training” the hogs over time to take from the feeders before they are baited. The label approved by the Texas Department of Agriculture is specifically designated as limited use because of these extra precautions. Anyone distributing the bait will have to be licensed.

However, some are concerned this method will have unintended consequences, like hurting other species.

David Haehn is the director of the Hogs for a Cause ministry and worries other animals could die after eating a hog poisoned by warfarin. “A feral hog that will consume food at a feeder will easily move a mile away at night away from that feeder, and so if that animal dies more than a mile way, how do you protect the wildlife?” said Haehn.

He spends countless hours baiting and catching feral hogs with traps. They then turn them into USDA-inspected meat to feed people in need. Over seven years he estimates  they’ve provided 250,000 pounds of meat to food banks, the local population and others who’ve requested it.

“They have a difficult job and they’re trying to find a solution for that difficult problem, and I don’t think this is the answer to that, but I also don’t know what they answer is,” said Haehn.

Haehn also worries he wouldn’t be able to feed people with the contaminated meat.

The Texas Hog Hunters Association has started an online petition to stop the change from moving forward. They want to see more research on the issue before moving forward with the rule.

They sent this statement to KXAN:

      Where we are full of unknowns on this matter we do know this.

  1. Introducing a poison into the environment will have negative impacts on non targeted species.
  2. What about unsuspecting Hunters harvesting and processing hog for themselves or their family unknowingly poisoned with this bait. Hogs do not just stay in the same area all the time, they roam and cover a lot of territory.
  3. How about species that scavenge upon deceased carcasses such as buzzards and coyotes etc. , this will now be passed on into their system and all this can have a serious negative impact and balance on nature.
We support Hunters rights by any and all legal means, we support education to the public about feral hogs and we support conservation efforts by landowners including farmers and ranchers. We certainly support the hunting industry as a whole in which this certainly will impact.
What we are demanding at this point is all studies and information be released publicly for review and evaluation and for commissioner Miller to halt any further actions to move this forward until it has been publicly examined and scrutinized by others from the industry.

The state agriculture spokesman tells KXAN that the hog’s fatty tissues are dyed blue from the bait so anyone hunting the hogs would know it had ingested that much warfarin. He says if the meat were ingested, a person would have to eat two pounds of wild hog liver to ingest as much warfarin as the low-end of a normal daily dose for a person that’s on warfarin for blood clot prevention

The feral hog is estimated at 2.6 million, causing about $52 million in damage a year for the agriculture industry.

Commissioner Miller and the manufacturer of the pesticide will hold a press briefing on the issue Tuesday.

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