New federal program will test poison bait on feral hogs

Boars cost state $50 million in damage to agriculture

SAN ANTONIO – For years, wild boars are have been breeding out of control all across Texas. Recent numbers show they cause more than $50 million in damage to Texas agriculture.

Feral hog poison to be tested in Texas, Alabama in 2018

Starting this year, a new federal test program will introduce a new poison bait to help eradicate the boar population. The test will begin in West Texas.

Bexar County residents are quickly learning about the problems that farmers and ranchers have been battling for decades. Roland Ortiz, with Ortiz Game Management, contracts with private companies, individuals and county governments to remove feral hogs from properties.

“They’re very intelligent animals, a keen adversary,” he said. 

He’s been after them for more than four decades. “They're very prolific breeders. That’s why we have such a big problem and we're trying to stay on top of them. To manage them is a full-time job,” Ortiz said.

In recent years, more and more homeowners associations have contracted him.

“Now that we're expanding, we’re pushing them out but they come back. They are becoming more noticeable now,” he said. “I’m not saying there's more hogs, I’m saying there's more people out there that see them.”

In Bexar County, in 2016, he captured about 350 feral hogs. The following year, he captured about 415. He estimates there are thousands of them in the county. He’s caught some as close as 2 miles from the Riverwalk and others in parks and homes in the city of San Antonio.

A sow can be ready to breed by the time it’s 6 months old, and by 8 months, Ortiz said it will drop its first litter, anywhere from five to 10 piglets. Six months later, that litter will be ready to reproduce.

“They do damage to landscaping, all other equipment underground, fencing, roadways, culverts, earth dams,” he explained. “But they also become a hazard to people sometimes.”

Feral hogs can attack when they feel threatened and can eat pets and other wildlife if they lose their food source.

Ortiz said he thinks the new sodium nitrate poison bait will be one more tool but it will not eliminate the problem. “We have rat poison and we still have rats,” he said.

Ortiz has provided feedback to state and federal agencies on possible solutions.

“What we're promoting is a self-sustaining natural food source. My kids always say ‘If you can't beat‘em, eat‘em’,” he said.

According to the U.S. Dept. of Agricutlure, the field trials in Texas will likely begin next month.

If all goes well, the goal is to register the sodium nitrite bait with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by 2020-2021, for the use of feral swine.

If registered by the EPA, the toxic bait will be available for use by USDA APHIS Wildlife Services-certified applicators only or those working under their authority.

About the Author:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.