Posted May 27, 2014
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is gearing up with thermal imaging weapons to kill feral hogs, which cause about $1.5 billion in damages every year to farm communities and fields, according to an article on Reuters by P.J. Huffstutter available here. A similar feral swine article was posted on the blog here. The New Age Online also published Reuters’ article here and the Washington Post Online Blog here, and WNCT 9 published a summary article here.
Feral hogs can weigh more than 400 lbs and have been known to carry off newborn calves. Also, department officials are worried they may help spread a deadly pig virus. Therefore, the USDA wants to buy thermal scopes for high-powered rifles to kill the hogs.
“We’re going to get them, oh yes we are,” said Jason Wilking with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which has put out bids for 11 scopes since April 7.
The thermal scopes are part of a $20 million nationwide project to battle the feral swine. The project will also test for the spread of diseases such as swine influenza, swine brucellosis, and trichinosis, which is a bacteria swine can carry that can threaten human health.
USDA scientists also have concerns that the swine may be spreading Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv). The disease is not a threat to humans, but it has killed 7 million piglets. However, no evidence has been found to link the feral swine to the lethal pig disease.
The thermal scopes, approximately $12,000 each, will allow APHIS to conduct night attacks to “lethally remove” the swine, according to USDA APHIS spokeswoman, Carol Bannerman. The scopes can be used as a hand held device to search darkened areas for the location of animals, or they can be attached to weapons, sniper-style.
The USDA is also utilizing a technique called “Judas Pig” where feral sows with radio transmitters are released back to their herds to zoom in on the herds.
Drones are another tactic in consideration, but there is no word on whether they will join the hunt.
For more information on biosecurity, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here.