LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. (AP) — U.S. Department of Agriculture aerial sharpshooters are returning to the Lake Havasu National Wildlife Refuge for a second attempt to exterminate feral hogs at the refuge along the Colorado River.
However, the facility’s manager told the Today’s News-Herald that it may take years before the swine are eradicated completely.
The agency began its Feral Swine Eradication Plan last February. The $25,000 operation was scheduled to last two weeks, but federal officials declared the effort a success after less than four days and about 70 confirmed kills.
But Lake Havasu National Wildlife Refuge Manager Rich Meyers said the surviving hogs may have repopulated within the past 12 months.
“Typically, hogs increase their reproduction while under stress,” Meyers said. “We’re seeing more hogs, and it’s possible that they’ve replenished their numbers.”
Feral swine are an invasive species throughout the country, the descendants of domesticated pigs that were released or escaped from captivity. Feral swine can cause extensive damage to riparian habitats while searching for food, and are known carriers of leptospirosis, salmonella and E-coli, presenting a threat to human health when they enter gardens and agricultural land, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.
Feral swine populations throughout the U.S. exceed five million, a 2015 Wildlife Society study said, and economic losses resulting from damage caused by feral swine is more than $1.5 billion per year.
“Everywhere they are on the Refuge, they’re extremely damaging to the habitat,” Meyers said. “We won’t get them all, but we can take out a lot of the sows and keep pressure on them. After a few years, we’ll systematically eradicate them from the Refuge.”