U.S. scientists are testing sodium nitrate, a common bacon preservative, as a poison for feral pigs.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is funding research to explore how sodium nitrate can be used to combat feral pigs that are destroying roughly $1.5 billion of agriculture every year, according to the Clarion-Ledger.
Sodium nitrate is highly poisonous to pigs, but not that toxic to humans.
So, the USDA gave $1.5 million in funding to scientists in Fort Collins, Colo. to study how sodium nitrate can be used as feral pig poison, and to research other solutions to the U.S. feral pig problem.
Unlike humans, pigs lack enough enzymes to process sodium nitrate. When they ingest it, they suffer from symptoms akin to carbon dioxide poisoning: incoordination, loss of consciousness, and death.
While it can be an effective poison, there are some kinks researches are trying to work out. The sodium nitrate baits haven’t reached a 90 percent kill rate on penned bigs – both feral and domestic – which is required for an EPA approval. Even if scientists achieve their target kill rate, they said the EPA approval could take up to five years.
Another problem is how to hide the pungent taste of the chemical from pigs’ taste buds. Sodium nitrate quickly breaks down in water and air, and pigs can easily detect it.
But the biggest problem of all, is how to create a bait trap that can only be accessed by pigs. Raccoons have already broken into test traps, and other animals can be affected by the poison.
One proposed solution is a solar-powered bait trap that delivers the poison only when pigs grunt. The trap sends out an electric shock to other animals or people that try to open it.
Whatever the solution, it’s clear that scientists need to act fast. Feral pig populations become more prolific every year.
The bait poisons might be the viable solution, because hunting can only do so much to control the rapidly reproducing pigs.
Australia and New Zealand have already used sodium nitrate baits to combat their feral pig hordes, and they’ve had some moderate success.
We’re interested to see if the USDA will use the sodium nitrate bait in the coming years.
What do you think about the sodium-nitrate bait? How do you think the US should combat its feral pig problem? Share your thoughts in the comments section.