CLINTON - The LSU AgCenter is working in the field and labs to solve the nation's feral hog problem.
Researchers are working on a poison to knock down the number of hogs wreaking havoc. The AgCenter says wild hogs cause $1.5 billion of damage across the southeastern United States, and 500,000 hogs call Louisiana home.
"We're hopefully going to be able to reach more pigs quicker with baits than we will be with shooting," said Dr. Glen Gentry.
The key to getting rid of nuisance animals like feral hogs could be in a round ball of gelatin that LSU researchers plan to use as poison. The bait is laced with sodium nitrite and causes the hogs to die humanely.
"When a hog eats this it changes the structure of the blood, and at that point the blood has less ability to carry oxygen and the animal basically suffocates from the inside out," said Gentry.
Right now the AgCenter is testing 30 different flavors of bait like lemon, apple, tea tree oil and fish. After they narrow down a hog's preference of flavor researchers will look at ways to get the bait to only pigs.
"Really the key to all of this is going to be the delivery system," said Gentry. "We need to make sure that when we deliver the toxic bait that we're actually delivering it to the species that we want to deliver it to and not to non-targets."
Gentry says they will use blood samples from other animals like deer and rabbits to make sure the poison only works on feral hogs. So far, hogs seem to have a lower tolerance of sodium nitrite than other animals.
"This is one of the biggest parts of the study. There's all kinds of poisons that would be toxic to pigs but would also be toxic to other animals," said Gentry. "That's why the EPA and USDA are really interested in sodium nitrite."
When the AgCenter determines a final product the EPA and USDA will have to approve the bait before it can be sold in stores. The AgCenter expects to have the bait finished in the next few years.