Mays says in addition to Avalos, officials attending the panel last week included Secretary Director of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture Jeff Witte, New Mexico State Land Commissioner Dr. Ray Powell, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Director Jim Lane and New Mexico rancher Bill Humphreys, representing the New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association.

"In the absence of any feral swine control, we can certainly expect to have feral swine in all 33 of New Mexico's counties. Right now we think we have feral hogs in 17 counties, up from just two counties eight years ago. It's a growing problem and is further complicated by a trending drought which makes watering holes and streams and rivers very critical areas to protect. With (fewer) watering holes and higher feral swine populations we could be looking at greater risks for transmission of animal diseases, contaminated water sources, competition with native wildlife for food and water, and even the spread of invasive weeds," May said.

Program funding from USDA came in the form of a demonstration grant designed to uncover the best methods to achieve eradication of invasive feral swine and to provide an outline of program practices. May says in New Mexico not only are government agency support and public and private support being offered as part of the project but even agriculture students at high schools in the state have been providing the labor to build trapping systems used in the program.

"We put our eradication team together a year or so ago and pulled our plan together this year to launch and prosecute this program and we are well on that road, though we have a long way to go," May reported. "We received funding from USDA in January, launched the program in February and have already removed or eradicated a little over 400 feral swine so far and are now moving into new areas."

The eradication program is, of course, in its infant stage, May says, but officials report much has been accomplished. Fourteen of the 17 counties with known feral swine populations have been or are being worked to reduce swine populations. Particular success has been experienced in the Middle Rio Grande Valley where hog populations now appear to be in control and are being managed.

"We expect this to be a five-year program. We have feral swine scattered across large areas but not in high concentrations. This is a large state and there are many remote wilderness areas, so eradication can't be an overnight project. In spite of our successes, our work is just getting underway, but we know the clock is ticking. We'll stay with the program until we can control our hogs, and hopefully any success we can achieve will lead others to a plan and a program that works in their areas," May said.



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