Feral hogs pose potential problems

By Thomas Garcia: Quay County Sun

Invading feral hogs are wreaking havoc on some farm and ranch lands in Quay County. And if left unchecked, the problems spread, state wildlife experts said.

“We had them uproot and damage one of our fields so bad that it looked like the Army had been out there shelling,” said Quay County farmer and rancher Ted Rush. “We farm on top of the cap and they have destroyed our crops before. When we have wheat, they uproot the roots and when the Milo heads bloom, they knock down the stalks and eat the heads.”

Rush, who farms and ranches 12,000 acres on the caprock, said he knows first hand that getting rid of the intruders can be a handful but is aware of the destructive implications if the animal is left unchecked.

“They have been in this area for about four years,” said Rush. “I have seen some herds with as many as 30 hogs. They are nocturnal animals and can travel great distances. In the four years, I have killed over 100 of the animals. The older boars do have tusk. But, I have not killed any of them or even seen one. I bought some dogs to help me run them off my land and aid in hunting them in an effort to control the population.”

Rush also said the older members of groups are savvy and difficult to hunt and kill.

As well as threatening crop and livestock, they are harmful to wildlife and habitats, said Jon Boren, extension wildlife specialist at New Mexico State University.

“These wild animals can destroy native plants used by other species as a food source. They can root up several inches in the ground looking for food and by doing so damage the top soil increasing soil erosion which will lead to long-term effects,” Boren said.

They also pose a disease threat, such as plague, to livestock and other wildlife, the experts said.

“In Quay County, there were no confirmed cases of plague by the New Mexico Department of Public Health, until the multiple cases found in feral hogs,” said Alan May, State Director of the New Mexico U.S.D.A. Wildlife Services. “They have been documented to carry Brucellosis and Pseudeorabies which may cause abortions in cattle. We are closely monitoring the animals to protect agriculture and national interest.”

Rush said, “They carry different diseases that don’t kill them but they can pass (the diseases) on to cows and other livestock like foot and mouth disease. They also attract predators like mountain lions who eat them until they can’t find anymore – then they could turn on our livestock.”

The animals are usually found in Riparian habitats (wetlands) but seem to be adapting to the dry New Mexico environment, experts say. And unless the problem is dealt with now, the hog population will increase, as will the problems.

“They are the most prolific large wild mammal in North America,” said Boren. “They are capable of doubling their population in four months. They can have two litters a year with the litter size ranging from 4 to 13 a litter. As their numbers grow so will their home range which is anywhere from half a mile to 19 square miles, depending on natural resources available to them.”