Louisiana’s feral pig problem is fast becoming a crisis that wildlife officials are calling one of the more pressing environmental issues for the region. There are an estimated 400,000 feral hogs in the state, and the invasive species is poised to grow exponentially. Like other researchers across the country, scientists at Louisiana State University’s AgCenter are searching for ways to curb the pig population, but their latest development may be a bit sweeter than expected. For some time, the center has been experimenting with introducing sodium nitrite—a highly toxic chemical to swine—into the pig population, but wild hogs seem to be put off by the taste. In response, researchers began using gummy bears as bait.

“I like using gummy bears as a way to hide the salty and bitter taste of sodium nitrite,” said AgCenter animal science researcher Glen Gentry in a press release.

Sodium nitrite is a yellowish powder that can induce methemoglobinemia in pigs, a condition that occurs when oxygen is leeched out of the animal’s blood, causing it to become sleepy and lie down. In large enough quantities, it is fatal to pigs. Humans and most other mammals are less affected by the toxin because of a naturally-occurring enzyme that can combat the process. Pigs do not have as much of this enzyme and are much more vulnerable to sodium nitrite.

“When using sodium nitrite, the animal suffocates from the inside out,” Gentry explained.

While that may not sound very pleasant, the pig is usually asleep during the process and is not assumed to feel much pain. The use of the chemical in conjunction with bait is also considered a very effective form of population control. So far wildlife officials have used hunters and trappers, as well as sharpshooters, to cull the pig population, but those efforts are being outpaced. Due to their fast breeding cycle and large litter sizes, scientists estimate that roughly 75 percent of the pig population must be culled very year to keep it stable. In addition to being a menace to farmers and landowners, uprooting seedlings, degrading forests, and contaminating waterways with coliform bacteria, pigs are also having a significant negative effect on the state’s wildlife. According to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, feral hogs are responsible for a decline in popular game species such as deer, turkey, and quail.

“Research shows that deer and hogs do not mix and that deer can be displaced by hogs,” read the department’s annual deer report. “Research has shown that deer detection rates can be up to 49% less where hogs occur. Hog populations affect deer numbers through direct competition for food resources and fawn predation. Hogs carry infectious diseases such as Leptospirosis, brucellosis, and pseudo-rabies.”

Gentry is currently searching for a more effective delivery medium than gummy bears, as well as something a bit more selective. He also agrees with state conservationists that more people should be aware of the destruction pigs can cause if not controlled.

“We need to show this animal in a very negative light to the decision-makers,” said Randy Lanctot, former executive director of the Louisiana Wildlife Federation. “They need to see that this is a bad animal.”

Image courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

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  • Mn sportsman

    they need to introduce some Wolves from Minnesota to help on the Hogs

    • Steve Thomas

      NO THANKS!!!! The hog problem started by man introducing an invasive species. We don’t need anymore. Just get the “health departments” out of the way, then let people find out how much better they taste.

      • Jeff Rielley

        Wolves are native to MN.

      • Jeff

        That was not the point.
        It was about bringing wolves to Louisiana.
        THAT would make them invasive.

      • Jeff Rielley

        You are correct, my mistake.

  • RangerRick

    As long as they’re on private land their numbers will flourish as land owners try and fetch top dollar for allowing hunters to come and get them. I understand trying to supplement your income as a farmer or land owner but at some point numbers need to be controlled. It’s like Texas where 90% plus of the land is privately owned and you can’t get access to eliminate hogs without paying a fortune.

  • Dennis Wisler

    I read about all these state saying they have a pig problem but if you want to hunt them they what a arm and a leg to go there. I think they need to make it affordable to hunt them. Or the land owner will not let you on there land. Plus the guide are out of mind for the price they want. The state and the land owner & guide should work together to make to make it for out state to hunt.

  • AZDave

    I agree with Rick and Dennis. Perhaps money spent, by the states, on a website that land owners can post their information to be viewed by hunters would be a good investment. “Hunt free, just come and get them. Contact me at…” or similar. They can even charge $50.00 or so if they want, but if the problem is that bad I’d think they’d just want them gone. Along the same lines for gun theft. If I want to purchase a firearm from an individual why can’t I have access to the database that lists stolen firearms. I wouldn’t buy if I checked the serial and found it to be stolen. It would also make firearms less desirable to criminals since it would curtail their ease of sale. Common sense is difficult to find these days.

  • Robert Wheelock

    I agree completely……..lower the rates from $1 per pound to .25 cents and watch the problem disappear! Instead we’ll spend millions trying to cut the population down. By the time you butcher now your at up to $3 per pound. No thanks!

    • Steve Thomas

      And to donate the meat to “soup kitchen” or children’s home, the hog must be professionally butchered. Even then, there are still stories of “health departments” confiscating and destroying the meat.

  • doug

    Will the “sodium nitrite” automatically turn them into “cured” bacon ?????

    • Steve Thomas

      MMMMMMMMMMM!! Bacon.

  • Osmany Duany

    Absolutely, it’s like “Help us, we are desperate for help, these are our conditions..money…blah blah blah”, more of the same. Now we want to poison them and pollute the environment even more when they die and rot in the wild. Landowners must be more desperate for money than getting rid of the actual threat.

    • Steve Thomas

      They won’t rot. Buzzards are protected species.

  • carlcasino

    Hunting feral hogs is showing to not be as effective as first thought. unless you kill the females the reproduction rate outstrips the kill rate. The farmers I know charge high to eliminate the novice hunters who do more damage than the hogs.

  • James Kerns

    I dont understand the mindset of wasting so much valuable meat by indiscriminate poisioning of hogs in this manner. I understand the destructive nature, and disease issues but hunters would happily take more of the animals if landowners would make it easier for hunters to gain access to their lands and if they did not seek such exessive profits from the hunt. Tresspass fees, trophy fees, artificial bag limits not imposed by the states.
    I would happily drive down and shoot enough to fill a truck, bring home the meat to share among many needy familys. But i will not pay for the priveledge of helping you out and in turn to help the needy with meat during these tough financial times.

  • Jeff

    Poison the hogs? Seriously? And then what happens to the scavengers that feed off the poisoned hogs??

    • Ben

      What about using sugar cane to deliver the sodium nitrite?