Apr 14, 2014

USDA announces $20M to target wild hogs

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a $20 million effort to reduce the increasingly expensive damage caused by wild hogs in rural areas. Under the new program, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will work directly with states to manage populations and test for diseases such as swine fever.

The invasive wild hogs, known as feral swine, are n ow found in 39 states, causing damage ranging from killed livestock to property destruction. In recent years, costs related to wild hogs have exceeded $1.5 billion a year.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, the invasive species is especially prolific with females commonly producing two litters per year. Adults typically weigh 200 pounds but can exceed 400 pounds.Wild hogs are able to carry and transmit up to 30 diseases and 37 different parasites, the USDA states. "Feral swine are one of the most destructive invaders a state can have," Undersecretary for Regulatory and Marking Programs Ed Avalos said in the statement. "It's critical that we act now to begin appropriate management of this costly problem."

APHIS's Wildlife Services division will administer the new program. Of the total cost, $9.5 million will go toward state projects; initial funding will be based on the extent of feral swine damage in a state. Other funding will be divided between establishing procedures for disease monitoring and conducting research on control practices, among other activities. Congress provided the $20 million in funding for the program in fiscal 2014. The administration hopes to have the program fully operating within six months.

A pilot program in New Mexico in fiscal 2013 removed more than 640 hogs on 4.8 million acres throughout the state, APHIS Administrator Kevin Shea testified at a House of Representatives hearing. APHIS estimates the program saved New Mexico residents $360,000 in property damage. Through the national program, APHIS hopes to eliminate feral swine in 10 states within seven years, Shea said in written testimony.