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Feral Hogs - TDA Decision to Allow Poisoning of Feral Hogs

Feral hogs (Sus scrofa) have been a plague for years in Texas, causing environmental harm and over $50 million in annual property and crops damage. Citing the recent decision by the EPA to approve the use of Kaput Feral Hog Bait (KFHB) to control feral hogs, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller announced in February that the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) would allow the use of KFHB in Texas as a "state-limited-use pesticide". State-limited-use pesticides may only be bought and used by a licensed applicator or someone under the direct supervision of a licensed applicator. Subsequently, a judge blocked the rule change.

KFHB is a hog bait that contains warfarin. As an anticoagulant, warfarin causes animals to bleed to death, usually over several days. It is typically used for controlling rodents. Unlike with other mammals, only a small dose is required to kill a hog (KFHB contains one fifth the amount in rat poison). It is not water soluble, and according to a 2004 EPA report, is metabolized and cleared from a living animal's body relatively quickly. According to that same report, formulations used to control rodents appear to have little impact on birds, although it is unclear how much study has been performed on impacts on avian scavengers.

TDA's decision is controversial. Some consider warfarin inhumane, because it takes several days for the poison to kill an animal, during which the animal suffers. It is also argued that poisoned hogs and their carcasses could pose environmental, human health, and economic problems, because they will contain warfarin. Environmentally, decomposing carcasses could release warfarin into the environment, and predators killing and eating ill hogs and scavengers feeding on carcasses, especially mammals, could be poisoned. Similarly, hunters might risk health problems by eating poisoned hogs. Economically, businesses that process feral hog meat into pet food would be concerned about contaminated meat. In fact, it was a meat processor who obtained the judge's restraining order.

The counterarguments are that first, it is highly unlikely that living hogs and hog carcasses would pose risks to the environment or humans because hogs require very low doses of warfarin to be killed, and amounts in their bodies would be lowered further by the relatively high rate at which it is cleared from the body. Because warfarin is water-insoluble, it would not leach into the environment. Restrictions placed on the use of KFHB by TDA further reduce the environmental risks. Second, KFHB turns hog fat blue, making it potentially easy for hunters and meat processors to tell when a hog has been poisoned. TDA provides a fact sheet with more information, although it provides no citations. A final counterargument is that efforts to control the feral hog population have clearly been unsuccessful, and therefore using KFHB provides another potentially powerful tool, one whose environmental benefits, not to mention the reduction in property and crop damage, would far outweigh the apparently very limited potential harm.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is still evaluating TDA's decision. It states, "Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has received numerous inquiries regarding the recent announcement from the Texas Department of Agriculture that the Warfarin-based toxicant, Kaput, has been approved for feral hog control in Texas. TPWD has recognized for many years that feral hogs pose substantial risks due to the damage they cause to wildlife, lands, habitat and crops. While TPWD has supported and encouraged responsible feral hog control management practices, it has not yet evaluated the risks and impacts this toxicant may have on non-target species when used as a means to control feral hog populations. TPWD is in the process of requesting the research information utilized by the EPA in recently approving the use of Kaput as a feral hog toxicant. Once an assessment of the research on Kaput is completed, TPWD hopes to express its position on the risks the use of this toxicant may have on Texas wildlife."

Additional information:
EPA Registration of Kaput Feral Hog Bait - click here
TDA warfarin fact sheet - click here
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department information on ferel hogs - click here

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