CLOVIS, N.M. (AP) — State and federal officials say feral pigs are ravaging eastern New Mexico’s range and farmland.
An astonishing reproductive rate has seen hogs spread to 17 of New Mexico’s 33 counties in just seven years.
The wild swine have rooted up Quay County farmer and rancher Ted Rush’s feed roads and destroyed milo and sorghum crops. He said he has killed more than 300 feral swine on his land.
“My wheat fields looked like they’d been bombed by the military, there were huge craters everywhere,” Rush said.
The pigs could have a devastating effect on New Mexico’s economy.
U.S. Agriculture Department wildlife specialist Ron Jones is tracking the invasion of feral pigs into New Mexico. He tells the Clovis News Journal (http://bit.ly/wd1yfA) that he uses abandoned windmill sites with running water to track the pig’s progress across the state.
“There are only two kinds of land owners in New Mexico — those who have feral pigs, and those who will,” Jones said.
Jones has watched this silent, natural disaster sweep across the state for seven years.
“It’s time for action” he said. “We need to draw a line and decide how far we’re going to let this go.”
Curry County extension agent Stan Jones said he does not expect a huge problem in the Clovis area, because Curry and Roosevelt counties do not have rivers and streams, which feral hogs depend on to keep cool.
But New Mexico director of wildlife services Alan May disagrees.
“A population of feral pigs is doing quite well in the sandhills of New Mexico living off livestock water troughs provided by ranchers,” May said.
The USDA’s Ron Jones said DNA studies of euthanized feral pigs have traced their genetic pools to Wisconsin, Nebraska and Louisiana, raising suspicions that some of the pigs were originally imported into the state for hunting purposes. Others are simply renegade domestic pigs who have adapted to life in the wild or migrated to the area.
The hogs are invasive predators that have turned the state’s ecosystems upside down. Not only do they prey on young livestock, such as lambs and kid goats, they actively hunt young fawns and devour populations of rodents, reptiles and rabbits, which sustain New Mexico’s eagles, hawks, owls and coyotes, Jones said.
The voracious swine also decimate cactus pear apple, pinion nut, acorn and mesquite bean sources that sustain native wildlife.
The wild swine have invaded the Bosque del Apache wildlife refuge for birds and threaten to drive New Mexico’s protected sand dune lizard into extinction.
The hog’s rooting habits are transforming the state’s landscape by destroying native grasses and leaving invasive and noxious weeds in their stead.
Texas has a huge population of wild hogs, and they are starting to plague urban areas because of changing habitats and prolific reproduction. Texas has up to 2 million of the hairy beasts, about half the nation’s population, and state officials say they cause about $400 million in damage each year. Other states with large populations include California, Florida and Hawaii.
The pigs also carry more than 20 diseases that have been known to wipe out herds of domestic livestock, Jones said. May said hogs can also contaminate water supplies throughout infested areas.
The USDA and other state agencies have sanctioned an eradication plan, but don’t have the manpower or resources to implement it. Jones hopes that public awareness will help bolster support for the plan.