Wild pigs are encroaching on farmland across the country and costing farmers thousands in crop and property damage. Auburn University has developed a contraceptive bait that may be the answer to the growing issue.
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A growing plague of wild pigs is becoming a real pain for people across Alabama and Georgia, especially those whose livelihood depends on crops and livestock. News 3 gives you a look inside a lab where researchers are working to get a grip on ‘pigs gone wild.’
“You can’t do anything but be mad, but then you try and get even with them,” said Eufaula farmer Charlie Speake. When Speake is fast asleep, no doubt dreaming of plentiful harvesting ahead…There’s a bump in the night, then a shuffle, and a snort. “They’re very smart, very good sense of smell, and they’re hard to do anything about, and they multiply so bad, so fast,” said Speake.
Wild hogs are feasting on his fields and others throughout Alabama and Georgia, leaving behind ‘hoof’ prints and plenty of crop damage. Part of the problem that’s frustrating farmer speaks, the pigs are invading his fields at night, pulling up seeds before they can take root. “It adds up to a lot of money over a lot of acres,” said Speake.
The wild pig problem is plaguing land owners across Alabama and at least 43 other states. Researchers say they pose a threat to agricultural efforts. They cause more than 1.5 billion dollars in property damage nationally and have the potential of spreading disease to people and livestock. There are an estimated 4 million wild hogs nationwide, and the number continues to rise.
“They’ve really gotten worse they’ve spread to areas we haven’t had hogs before,” said Speake.
A new method for controlling the pig population is in the making at Auburn University. “We have preliminary data to indicate we are on the right path,” said Dr. Frank Bartol, Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies, Auburn University. Researchers are taking aim at the animals’ reproduction. They’re working to develop an inexpensive oral contraceptive vaccine that would block fertility.
“Here at the College of Veterinary Medicine and our colleagues in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences we’re using tools of molecular biology to advance a vaccine that would be pig specific contraceptive approach,” said Bartol.
Researchers say in lab testing, the most promising technique triggered antibodies that could interfere with sperm delivery. The contraceptive would be environmentally safe and only affect pigs.
Rod Pinkston is a well-known hog control expert and owner of Jager Pro in Columbus. He relies heavily on military technology in tracking and killing pigs. “Our goal is 100 percent success. If we’ve got 25 hogs coming into this field our goal is to kill all 25,” said Pinkston.
Pinkston says there is no “end-all” answer to the problem, but success can be achieved through use of various methods and strategy. “Everybody that has a hog control problem; it has to be part of the tools they use. I hope the sodium nitrate is tested and approved. I hope the bait contraception is tested and approved, we have to teach people to be more efficient in trapping, more efficient in shooting,” said Pinkston.
And while the contraception is still being developed, farmers continue to use methods at hand. Jager Pro recently trapped and killed more than 30 pigs in one night, on Speake’s farm. But if the contraceptive is ever approved….
“I’d be wanting to buy some stock in it…If it’s reasonably priced and will do what they say it will do,” said Speake.
During the next phases of the study, researchers will hone in deciding which bait would be most attractive to the hogs and begin extensive product testing in the field.
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