You may have heard Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller supports using a poison that will kill feral hogs ruining Texas crops and farm land. Miller likes to say the poison will bring about a “Hog Apocalypse” in Texas.
Opponents have filed a lawsuit putting Miller’s rules for the poison on hold. The EPA has approved the use of the poison but the company that makes the poison says it won’t sell it in Texas until the state rules for using it are in place.
First there’s the sheer number of feral hogs- the state estimates 1.5 million are running rampant all across the state. And with every litter, their numbers grow. The Agriculture Department says the hogs cause more than $50 million in damage a year.
Anthony Gola knows that first hand. He grows corn and other vegetables northeast of Taylor and says the hogs can wipe out an entire season’s crops in span of a week.
“They destroy the crop, corn especially, at planting and at harvest when the corn is ripening, it will be a total failure, you’ll have a total crop loss."
That’s why Gola welcomes Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller’s support for using the poison known as Kaput Feral Hog Bait in Texas.
“It may be available for in-season use but doesn’t look like it will be available for planting."
Kaput works on hogs a lot like rat poison. It contains Warfarin which slows the blood-clotting process. In human application, Warfarin can prevent strokes and heart attacks. When used in high doses as in rat poison it can cause the animals to bleed to death.
Wildlife experts with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are concerned Kaput could affect wildlife besides the hogs who eat it. That it could affect wildlife that feed on hog carcasses.
“Studies show that rodents and raptors can be affected through primary and secondary consumption of warfarin," says Josh Havens, the communications director for Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Warfarin was used to kill feral hogs in Australia then Australia banned its use. A spokesman for Agriculture Commissioner Miller says the amount of Warfarin in Kaput is lower than the amount in Australia’s application. Miller says he’s not worried about the hog poison affecting other animals.
“We sent the information to the EPA for a registration, they said you know this product is Warfarin and we’ve already labeled Warfarin. So, it’s relatively safe and because of that low strength level it’s not toxic to anything except in extremely large quantities, other than hogs.”
Still, the company’s label urges users to wear protective gear when handling it and to keep children, pregnant women, pets, livestock and other wildlife away from the feeders that dispense the poison.
Beyond the potential health risks, others worry that using the poison will hurt businesses in Texas.
Texas Natural Meats, Northeast of Temple, processes feral hog meat. C.W. Wharton is the plant’s manager and says the wild pork has become increasingly popular among high-end restaurants throughout country.
“It doesn’t appear that much thought was given to how this was going to affect the State of Texas, the product we are talking about here and the population."
Wharton says his facility is a federally-regulated USDA processing plant. That means the hog meat is carefully inspected for possible contaminates before it is sold.
According to Kaput’s label, the hog’s meat is contaminated by the poison within 24 hours of eating it. The poison turns the pig’s fat layer blue.
“Certainly whether the fat is blue or not, we’re still going to have to test the product. It has to be a scientific proof that it’s not contaminated for us."
And Wharton says the testing is expensive. He also believes the number of animals tainted with the poison will greatly reduce the overall meat production at his plant.
Eydin Hansen with Texas Hog Hunters Association agrees.
Hansen says the feral hog meat business has become a billion dollar industry in Texas. He supports legislation being filed by Rep. Lynn Stucky, a Republican veterinarian from North Texas. It would prevent the poisoning of feral hogs until the safety of doing that is studied further.
“For the bill it actually stops the poisoning. Before any poison could be used in the State of Texas, it would have to be studied for long term use in actual environments because the science they’ve put in place actually came from the company who makes the product."
The Hog Hunters’ Association has joined other meat producers in a lawsuit that has put Agriculture Commissioner Miller’s regulations for using Kaput on hold. A hearing on the suit is scheduled for the end of the month. A Miller spokesman says without the Texas-specific plan - anyone who can get their hands on Kaput can use it in this state. But the manufacturer says it won’t sell the hog poison in Texas until the state adopts application rules.
So, until that happens the hogs’ biggest worry may be the meat producers and the hunters who see them as tasty Texas barbecue.