Texas's 2.5 million feral pigs may soon fall victim to chemical warfare. On Tuesday, the state's Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller changed the rules of the Texas Administrative Code to permit the legal poisoning of these unsuspecting hogs.
Before feeling too bad for the poor piggies, know that feral hogs are a national problem that cost us around $US1.5 ($2) billion. They wreak at least $US52 ($68) million in damages to Texas agriculture each year by ruining crops and livestock tanks. According to the Austin American Statesman, these deranged creatures cause "untold damage in suburban areas, where they dig up homeowners' yards and dine on cable and internet lines."
On solving the problem of the pigs, Miller said, "They're so prolific, you can't hardly keep them in check. This is going to be the hog apocalypse, if you like: If you want them gone, this will get them gone."
The agent of this impending apocalypse? Kaput Feral Hog Lure is a bait food laced with warfarin, a colorless and flavourless rodentcide. In smaller doses, warfarin is also used as a blood thinner in humans. Warfarin holds particular significance in world history — a study from 2003 suggests it might've been used to poison Stalin during his last dinner with the Politburo, and President Eisenhower was an early user of the drug, which he was given after a heart attack in 1955.
While Richard Poché, the president of the company that makes Kaput, assured Texans that the risk of using warfarin is minimal, local hunters are concerned. A petition opposing the use of warfarin has more than 12,000 signatures. Eydin Hansen, Vice President of the Texas Hog Hunters Association, told CBS News, "We don't think poison is the way to go."
But as Hansen explained, "If a hog dies, what eats it? Coyotes, buzzards… We're gonna affect possibly the whole ecosystem."
Edwin Parker, a Texan hog buyer, had the same concerns as Hansen. Additionally, he told ABC 9 KTRE, "We slaughter a few pigs and give them to people in a tight situation and need something to eat. If word gets out that all the hogs are poisoned we aren't going to want to risk making our kids sick, family sick."
Though Kaput is only allowed to be in feeders that adult hogs can access, the worry about it contaminating non-target species is legitimate. State wildlife veterinarian Jim LaCour spoke to the New Orleans Times-Picayune about his concerns with Louisiana possibly adopting warfarin to deal with its feral hog problem:
When the hogs eat, they're going to drop crumbs on the outside, where small rodents can get them and not only intoxicate themselves but also birds of prey that eat them. Since the poison will be on the landscape for weeks on end, the chances of these birds eating multiple affected animals is pretty good.
"Chemical feral hog apocalypse" joins "President Donald J. Trump" and "fried chicken shell tacos" in the list of absurd realities that, in simpler times, seemed utterly impossible.