Officials representing a half-dozen groups including federal and New Mexico state agencies gathered last week in Albuquerque to evaluate progress of the first officially sanctioned feral hog eradication program, launched earlier this year.

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary Edward Avalos was on hand to entertain a panel of program participants for an early, four-month program update on eradication efforts designed to eliminate the current and future threat posed by growing numbers of wild hogs across New Mexico.

USDA Wildlife Services State Director Alan May says the eradication program represents a partnership between state and federal agencies and a number of agricultural and wildlife stakeholders in New Mexico who petitioned USDA for matching funding to launch the program, the first of its scope and kind in the nation.

"Problems associated with the proliferation of feral hogs have been growing across a good many states in recent years and represent a real threat to agriculture and wildlife. While New Mexico is just beginning to feel the threat of increased hog populations in some of our areas, we know these very invasive animals can bring diseases and present other undesirable risks that can endanger animals, including livestock and wildlife and even humans," May said.

He said that it was through a coalition of stakeholders that the idea behind a major statewide eradication program was born.  Realizing escalating reports of increased populations of feral hogs in places like southeastern New Mexico along the Pecos River meant the problem was getting bigger. May said officials were not surprised to learn that soon wild hog reports began filtering in from other areas.

Mescalero Apache tribal officials were concerned about apple orchards and sensitive agriculture and livestock areas in the southern mountains around Cloudcroft. Rio Grande

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Valley chili pepper growers and pecan producers in the south were becoming more concerned about the potential for hog troubles and crop damages in that area.

"What eventually emerged was a coalition of officials and stakeholders who believed that if we were to ever make a stand against this invasive threat the time had come to do it, so collectively we asked Under Secretary Avalos for USDA's support and funding," he said.

Avalos identified USDA funds for the project, but it required local matching funds to secure the grant. Local contributions could be either cash funds or in-kind contributions, including the dedication of equipment and/or manpower towards the project.

State of New Mexico officials, county agents, wildlife officials, livestock and other stakeholder groups in New Mexico met and drafted a plan to initiate an eradication program that enlisted wide ranging support from local governments and communities and involved various types of activities including building field traps at the local level and using them to ensnare entire feral hog sounders. It also included aerial hunting of the invasive animals from helicopters.