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‘Pork’ spending may curb invasive wild hogs

Feds to help battle damaging species

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The feds are offering big money to anyone who can hunt and kill wild pigs on federal lands in South Carolina — the latest move in the government's battle against an invasive species causing an estimated $1.5 billion in damage to farmland and property each year.

In a contract solicitation last week, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture offered up to $150,000 for bidders of a one-year feral hog control contract in federal forests about 30 miles northwest of Charleston, South Carolina.

The job comes with some very specific directives for the "trapping and dispatching" of wild pigs.

Armed contractors, for instance, can only use a .22 caliber rifle or handgun: "The sidearm shall remain secure in the holster except when being used to dispatch a wild pig," the solicitation states.

The request comes weeks after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in March plans to spend $20 million to help states control wild pigs. The agency says pigs have expanded from 17 to 39 states in the past three decades, causing damage to property, livestock, crops and natural habitats.

Last month, Reuters reported that the USDA is even seeking to buy thermal imaging night vision equipment to help hunt pigs at night.

According to hog expert Billy Higginbotham, a professor at Texas A&M, the wild pig is the most prolific large mammal on the planet. And while there's no wild pig census, the best "guesstimates" place overall U.S. wild pig population at between 4 million and 8 million.

Professional hunter Darrell Corbyn, who isn't bidding on the job but works for developments and ranches in Texas, said he's had death threats from people who don't quite understand the nature of his work.

"For one thing, they breed at too fast a rate and nothing kills them off and so they reproduce at levels the habitat can't sustain," said Mr. Corbyn, who runs a business about 90 miles northwest of San Antonio with his father called Hogstoppers.

"A hog will eat absolutely anything," he said. "They clean out everything edible on the land, and that starves out the rest of the animals."

Mr. Corbyn said the near-weekly death threats he used to get — mostly from England, oddly — all but stopped once he posted an answer to the question he said he gets all the time: Is killing wild hogs really necessary?

In his online explanation, he wrote that wild hogs are alien species and that they kill young livestock, fawns and other animals.

"If you insist on leaving the wild hogs alone, then wouldn't you be killing cute little fawns and all of those other animals by proxy?" he wrote.

In their announcement back in March, USDA officials didn't mention anything about killing wild hogs. But even in the dry language of a federal contract solicitation, it's clear that "dispatching" can only mean one thing.

"Should a dispatched pig be dispatched outside of normal business hours ..." the solicitation advises contractors, "take a digital picture with file location of deceased pig at location of dispatch."

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