Feral hog population threatens agriculture industry

By Thomas Garcia: Freedom New Mexico

The feral hog is rapidly becoming the new coyote, or pest, for farmers across eastern New Mexico, a state agriculutural official said Thursday at the 41st annual Agricultural and Home Economics Seminar in Tucumcari.

State officials outlined the problem as well as a creative program still being developed to help control feral hogs.

Feral or wild hogs damage land and crops and carry at least 37 parasites that can affect people, pets, livestock and wildlife, said biologist Justin Stevenson, who is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant and Health Inspection Services.

Stevenson said feral hogs can also be carriers of bovine tuberculosis and pseudo-rabies.

“When a feral hog spreads the pseudo-rabies to livestock, it usually results in…death,” Stevenson said. “The livestock start exhibiting symptoms such as a mad itch and die within one day.”

“Two years ago in Texas, 9,500 feral hogs were killed,” Stevenson said. “This number reflects the number of hogs killed on public or state land. The private landowners want to keep the hogs on their lands for hunting.”

Currently in Oklahoma some 400 feral hogs a week are being killed, Stevenson said.

The exact number of feral hogs in New Mexico is still unknown, Stevenson said.

The state agricultural agency has taken less then 100 feral hogs in New Mexico for hog damage management and disease testing, said Ken Podborny, Northen New Mexico, district supervisor.

“Our agency works by request,” Podborny said. “We receive calls from landowners seeking help to remove the animals from their land.”

Podborny said the wild hog problem is a recent one. When he became district supervisor in 1984, there was not a feral hog problem or management program.

“We currently do not have the same problem as Texas and Oklahoma,” Podborny said. “In just a few years these feral hogs are becoming a problem in New Mexico. Several calls have come into our agency from Quay County. These animals are moving and they are moving west (from Texas).”

Stevenson said he would like landowners to contact the agency when they have killed a feral hog.

“We would like to draw blood to test the hogs…(to) determine how many are infected with a disease,” Stevenson said. “This can help us to determine if there is a concentration of diseased hogs in an area that could pose a threat to area landowners and their livestock.”

The agency is working on a new way to cut back the population of the wild omnivore population in New Mexico.

The population control program has been dubbed the “Judas Hog Operation.”

The program would release a sterilized female feral hog into the wild.

The female would be equipped with a tracking collar. Once located with a pack of hogs, the hogs would be killed and the female would be released again to locate another pack.

The agency hasn’t determined a date yet on when to launch the operation.

Feral hogs can cause invasive weed spread and erosion damage to property, said wildlife specialist Ron Jones, also with the state Department of Agriculture.

“The hogs can cause a lot of damage by rooting for food,” Jones said. “They will also wallow and root at water sources such as drinking ponds and stock tanks.”

More than 30 residents, farmers and ranchers attended the session on feral hog management and more than 85 people attended the day-log agricultural event hosted by the Quay County Extension service.

“I thought is was a great program,” said Arthur Barnard of Conchas, who said he had picked up a lot of useful information on the feral hog problem.

If you kill a feral hog and want to contact the New Mexico Department of Agriculture to test the hog for diseases, call

Justin S. Stevenson (505) 346-2640 or Ron Jones at (575) 799-2640.