They creep through the shadows as the sun goes down, but under a full moon, we could clearly see dozens of feral piglets and sows emerge into Kay County Farmer Mark Huster's soybean field.
Feral hogs often make a meal out of Oklahoma farm field.
He said, "Probably about 15 years ago, the feral hog problem finally got up here."
Huster's family has farmed this Kay County land along the Arkansas River and Oklahoma-Kansas state line since the Oklahoma Land Run.
Feral pigs root up and damage or eat his crops. This year, the soybeans and corn have been especially hard hit.
In the last five years, Huster estimates the pigs have taken a big bite out of his farm's bottom line.
"Anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 in damage to our crops," Huster said.
So, he's pleased to see a pilot project getting started in Kay County and four other counties along Oklahoma's southwest border with Texas.
It's goal is to use an old pig eradication technique in a new way to keeps the pigs from spreading into new territory.
Feral pigs reproduce like crazy, according to Scott Alls with the United States Department of Agriculture.
He said, "You could have one pregnant pig in year one. Okay, five years from now through natural mortality, there'll be about 40, 45 pigs. Okay, 10 years from now, that's grown to about 600, but then here's the problem we have in 20 years that's up to 125,000!"
Just to control their population is really tough.
"We need to harvest 70 percent of them just to maintain a population," Alls said. "So, the goal is to get up in the 80 and 90 percent range, then you can start pushing 'em back down."
To hit that kind of a mark, they're trying a three year project to see whether an old idea can be used in a new way.
That old idea: trapping. Big traps will be set up to catch whole families of pigs at once. Feral pigs are so smart, if one escapes, it won't go in a trap again. But, with patience and plenty of bait, feral hogs can be lured into traps, then killed.
"Southeast Oklahoma is where our worst problems are and highest population, " Alls said. "So if we start down there, we're never really gonna be effective, because of the fill-in effect. More pigs just fill in for the ones you removed. So, if we kinda start on the edges and set a perimeter, then we can work our way south and east and try to tackle it as a state."
We will follow their progress over the next 36 months to see if this plan works.
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