See the havoc this pack of feral hogs has wreaked on the state.…
Updated: Friday, 29 Jul 2011, 3:59 PM MDT
Published : Wednesday, 27 Jul 2011, 10:05 PM MDT
TUCUMCARI (KRQE) - Feral pigs are making their way across New Mexico and are causing more and more damage to the state’s land and crops, according to a government official and a rancher.
“I’m continually working on pigs,” said Ron Jones, a U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife specialist. “All it has done through the years is intensified.”
Reports of wild hogs first started popping up about six years ago, according to the U.S.D.A. Jones said he now spends more than half his time tracking down the animals in Quay County, near the Texas state line.
“I got a nickname,” Jones said. “They call me ‘Boss Hog.’ ”
For years, wild hogs have been a problem in other states, like neighboring Texas. But now they’re believed to be in every New Mexico county that borders Texas, and as far west as the Rio Grande.
The animals steal food, tear up the land and are generally destructive. And they can be aggressive, too.
“They’ll root up a quarter of a mile of road and it’s really hard to fix,” said Bill Humphries, a Tucumcari-area rancher. “Because they’ll dig big holes, kind of like bomb craters in it.”
With females producing litters of four to 12 piglets as often as every six months, the hogs are causing major damage to the land and crops of farmers and ranchers like Humphries. Jones and Humphries showed News 13 some of the damage the hogs left behind; about two acres of torn up grassland Humphries’ cattle can no longer graze. The hogs were searching for certain types of roots and bugs, Jones said.
Each wild hog causes an estimated $200 in damage every year. Jones has caught about 300 in the last six years. And, according to Jones, the hogs have traveled a long way.
“I’ve been in on two DNA projects with our feral pigs,” Jones said. “Here in our county we had four direct line descendants from hogs in Wisconsin, Nebraska, Louisiana and Arizona.”
Jones thinks people may have brought the wild hogs to New Mexico to establish hunting populations. It just so happens, hunting is one way used to fight the problem.
Another way includes the use of something called a “Judas hog,” an animal tagged with a transmitter, and then released to join other hogs in the wild. The hog group is then located, followed and killed, sometimes in special flying operations.
“That’s why they call it a Judas pig,” Jones said. “The pig is leading us to them, to his friends.”
Jones also uses traps connected to specially designed transmitters, to tell him when he’s captured something. Once they’re caught, the animals are euthanized, processed and examined for infections and disease, he said. It is dangerous work, he said.
“They’re very, very aggressive, and highly agitated,” Humphries said.
The exact number of feral hogs in New Mexico is unknown. Jones expects to be busy as long as he’s still on the job with the USDA.
“It takes more and more time, more mileage, more expense,” Jones said. “It’s just a continuous thing.”