New Mexico Wildlife Specialist Ron Jones told Quay County Commissioners Monday that the area feral hog population is under close monitoring and the disease rate for the wild animals seems to have declined dramatically.
“In the last year and a half our positives on the diseases with the pigs have really went to almost nothing. We have had no positive returns on any of the pigs we've submitted in about the last year and a half, for pseudorabies, tularemia or anything. We are at this time waiting on some samples to come back that have been taken since the first of October ... it looks like those positives have almost went to nothing at this time. Why that is, I don't know. Maybe it's because we've taken enough pigs out of that area that maybe it's just beginning to drop off,” Jones said.
Jones explained that he and colleagues have been controlling the feral hog population with a “Judas pig” method. Jones traps a hog, implants a tracking device in one ear, clips an identification tag to the other ear and releases the hog. He can then track the location of the Judas pig to find feral hog herds.
Jones said he and his team have killed feral herds by aerial hunting — shooting the hogs from a plane.
“We haven't eradicated the pigs and we won't. What we're trying to do is just manage the numbers. We made one flight one morning ... around the first of February. We took 20 the first morning. We went back when the storm cleared off and took another 18 pigs in just about the same amount of time. So I figure in about 30 minutes we took 38 pigs and then we took eight later, but it was not off the Judas pig. We've had 46 pigs taken out of that claim .... it's extremely effective,” Jones said.
“How do you keep from killing the Judas pig?” District 3 Commissioner Brad Bryant said.
“Actually I was about to bring that up. What we do is we try to take some precautions to keep that from happening. We try to put (the tag) in the back of the ear where the people flying can actually see the tag, but you know when there’s 35, 40 pigs going ... in that second bunch of pigs they accidentally got my Judas pig. Fortunately they're easy to recover. We went out and recovered the tag. I'm in the process now of trying to capture a pig in an area that I want it and as soon as I do we will deploy that tag again,” Jones said.
Jones said new trap monitors have allowed him to check his hog traps via webcam without actually driving out to each trap he has laid. He said he is required by law to check his traps once every 24 hours.
“What this thing does, when that (trap) door goes off it pulls a little pin and it sends me a picture on my mobile phone, and I can log in to a website every morning and I can check those traps from the computer right there and never leave the house, and save a tremendous amount of money,” Jones said.
Jones said the USDA is requesting $29,500 from the county, a $1,500 increase from last year’s funding.
District 1 Commissioner Robert Lopez asked Jones how many calls for coyotes he has received in the area this year.
“Down here in the valley, in the San Jon area this year, we had quite a few calls out there. But we flew a couple places out there and did some control calling and put out our M44 cyanide injector. We were very successful with a lot of that. Everybody seems to be happy,” Jones said. “There are coyotes in the sand hills ... but it seems like the numbers up there over the last quite a few years have been kind of low and I think it has a whole lot to do with the mange issue, and I think that mange is moving this way because I've noticed it in the area. It will eventually kill them.”