A U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed near Uvalde on Christmas Day, but it wasn’t at the hands of marauding miscreants — his death, along with those of two others, resulted from a wild hog crossing the highway late at night.
Antonio Cordova, 27, an eight-year veteran of the Border Patrol, was killed when an oncoming driver committed a faulty evasive maneuver to avoid hitting the pig and crashed into his SUV head-on. Two others survived the wreck and were hospitalized.
The number of feral hog-related traffic accidents is increasing in Texas as these prolific breeders and hardy creatures continue to grow in number. They’re descended from European wild boar that interbred with escaped domestic pigs, and it’s estimated that they cause $1.5 billion per year in agricultural-related damage.
Adult hogs can stand 3 feet high at the shoulder and weigh 400 pounds, making them a serious traffic hazard, and Texas Parks & Wildlife biologists estimate that 2.5 million of them call Texas home. They can devastate a field, fairway or pretty much any other place overnight.
Since they’re a non-native species, there’s no harvesting restriction, and anybody with a valid hunting license can hunt them year-round and take them by any means, but even that leeway hasn’t kept the population under control.
Back in the 1990s, a number of farmers and ranchers would open up their land to hunters to take down as many wild hogs as they could shoot, but eventually, the lure of profit caused many to start charging hunters for hog hunts, which curbed the number of people hunting them.
Another control method used on wild hogs is poison baits, but some of these are also toxic to other animals that might eat them — or would poison scavengers that feed on the pig carcasses.
However, a new method has been developed and is being field tested this year in Texas and Alabama that uses a chemical that reportedly will be lethal to swine but won’t be hazardous to other creatures.
Ironically, the bait being tested contains the preservative sodium nitrite, which is used to cure bacon and sausage. It’s not very healthy for anybody, but unlike humans, pigs don’t produce high enough levels of a particular enzyme that counteracts the effects. This prevents a pig’s red blood cells from pulling in enough oxygen, so when hogs eat the bait, they become uncoordinated, lose consciousness, and die within 90 minutes of ingesting it.
The substance doesn’t taste good, and while hogs will eat about anything in their way, they’re too smart to eat something harmful, so wildlife biologists had to develop a way to mask the taste and keep the delivery system stable enough to get the poison into the gut.
Biologist and outdoorsman Josh Sears said that although the proposed bait’s effects sound brutal, measures to control the feral hog population have to be explored and expanded using solid scientific techniques.
If the bait is deemed effective and safe for use around other animals, it could be approved for use in 2020, but landowners would have to purchase the bait and feeders through the USDA.
Last year, a bait was considered that contained the blood thinner Warfarin, but hunting groups and meat processors pushed back against it, saying that since it took up to 10 days to kill an animal, hunters wouldn’t know if a hog they shot contained the drug or not. Not only would the risk to human health negatively affect the hog hunting industry, but it would likely ruin the demand for wild hog meat in stores and restaurants.
Hogs not only damage cropland, but also degrade waterways, kill and eat fawns and other young wildlife, and destroy nests and eggs of ground-dwelling animals – not to mention carrying and spreading a number of diseases.
Area rancher Gregg Wetterman says he cautiously welcomes another weapon in the fight against feral hogs, as they’re not only responsible for damaging land and equipment, but also for the deaths of ground-nesting birds, snakes, turtles, and even newborn calves.
In the meantime, we’ll likely see more tragedies like the one in Uvalde as the wild hog population in Texas continues to explode.
Really Big Fishing Event on tap Feb. 3
Travis Bailey says the 31st Annual Really Big Fishing Event for Really Special People is set for Feb. 3 at the Heart O’ Texas Fairgrounds. He’s got 2,000 tasty, scrappy rainbow trout ordered for the party, which offers a day of food, drinks, music, dancing, fishing, games and more to people with mental and physical disabilities.
Facilities, families, and caregivers can also get the latest information on support services and other resources.
Stay tuned for more details.