A lethal gummy bear is the latest weapon in the ongoing research to develop a reliable control for the feral hog population in the U.S.
LSU AgCenter animal science researcher Glen Gentry is developing baits laced with sodium nitrite that are masked with different flavors that pigs are attracted to – like strawberry.
“We are looking at a semi-solid type bait, more like the consistency of a gummy bear. When an animal consumes a bait, we want to leave as little on the ground as possible,” Gentry said. “We believe in the long run we will have less crumbling associated with the semi-solid consistency than we do with a grain bait.”
Dosage trials in Texas aim to pinpoint the exact amount of sodium nitrite that is lethal to a hog that could weigh as much as 400 pounds. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologist John Kinsey says experiments with sodium nitrite, a preservative found in bacon, have been going on at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area for five years. So far, the hogs have outfoxed the biologists.
“There are behavior issues with these pigs that we don’t fully understand,” Kinsey said. “If we have one trial that goes very well and we get a high mortality out of a certain bait matrices, the next time we run it for replication, we might get a very poor result.”
Kinsey is working with Australian researchers who originally discovered the toxicity of sodium nitrite in feral hogs. The swine population has swelled despite hunters killing about 750,000 each year in Texas. Kinsey says there must be an integrated approach.
“We’re not producing a magic pill. We’re going to have to use multiple control methods in order to control this population. The traditional methods that are out there – hunting and trapping -- are still going to be very important,” Kinsey said.
Gentry estimates Louisiana and Texas have about 10 feral hogs per square mile. Both researchers say that they keep tabs on all the studies going on to ensure there’s no duplication of efforts.
Neither scientist can give any definitive timeline for when they could get federal approval for widespread use once a bait proves successful in the lab.