By Kevin Baird
CNJ staff writer
The state director of U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services said Curry and Roosevelt counties should be cleared of feral hogs soon.
The New Mexico Feral Swine Eradication Team, which is made up of 10 federal and state agencies, has been hunting hogs in Curry and Roosevelt counties this month, according Alan May.
May said he knows of seven hogs that were killed in a cornfield, although he did not know whether it was in Curry or Roosevelt County. The swine were shot by a rifleman sitting in the back seat of a small fixed-wing aircraft.
“There are relatively low feral swine densities, but we have found them,” May said of Curry and Roosevelt counties.
The $1 million eradication project has bagged about 400 wild hogs to date, May said.
Another tactic the eradication teams uses is a “Judas pig” fitted with a radio collar to lead hunters to pig lairs has helped clear hogs from stretches of the Pecos River Valley in De Baca, Chaves and Eddy counties, May said.
May provided no estimate of how many feral swine live in New Mexico, where they first were observed around 2008. The swine since have spread to at least 17 counties throughout southern and eastern New Mexico.
Every year feral hogs cause $1.5 billion in damage in the U.S., according to May. Feral swine use their long snouts and tusks to dig in the earth to find food, which is also known as rooting. Rooting is destructive to the environment and personal property, and it can leave 2 to 3 foot deep ruts in the ground, destroying large swaths of land.
“We’re making great progress,” May said. “Getting rid of the feral hogs will be like taking an insurance policy out against property damage for New Mexico.”
Eradicating pigs from Quay County will take longer though.
Ted Rush of Ragland said he has seen a decrease in feral hog troubles on his property with the help of eradication teams.
“We farm winter wheat and milo along the caprock,” Rush said. “They don’t eat a whole lot of the crops, but they sure do a lot of damage because of their rooting and walking around on the crops.”
He said the hogs have also contaminated his cattle’s drinking water.
Rush said he could kill one two pigs at a time, but he prefers to call an eradication team because they can hunt a lot more pigs than he could on his own.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Facts about feral pigs
• Size: Females average 175 pounds and males average 200 pounds.
• Breeding: Feral hogs have 5-6 piglets in a litter and 1.5 litters a year.
• Appearance: Feral hogs can be black, blonde, spotted, brown or reddish.
• Tusks: The tusks can be sharp and can grow 3-5 inches long.
• Diet: They are opportunistic feeders, meaning they will eat almost anything: Lizards, bugs, crops, eggs, etc.
• Disease: Feral hogs can spread disease to livestock and humans such as tuberculosis, pseudorabies, and brucellosis.
• Origins: Feral hogs may have escaped from livestock pens, been imported for breeding, or migrated from other parts of the U.S.
Source: Texas A&M University Agrilife extension website , the Washington.gov invasive species page, and Alan May, state director of Wildlife Services.