Gentry is currently searching for a more effective delivery medium than gummy bears, as well as something a bit more selective. He also agrees with state conservationists that more people should be aware of the destruction pigs can cause if not controlled.
“I like using gummy bears as a way to hide the salty and bitter taste of sodium nitrite,” said AgCenter animal science researcher Glen Gentry in a press release.
Sodium nitrite is a yellowish powder that can induce methemoglobinemia in pigs, a condition that occurs when oxygen is leeched out of the animal’s blood, causing it to become sleepy and lie down. In large enough quantities, it is fatal to pigs. Humans and most other mammals are less affected by the toxin because of a naturally-occurring enzyme that can combat the process. Pigs do not have as much of this enzyme and are much more vulnerable to sodium nitrite.
“When using sodium nitrite, the animal suffocates from the inside out,” Gentry explained.
While that may not sound very pleasant, the pig is usually asleep during the process and is not assumed to feel much pain. The use of the chemical in conjunction with bait is also considered a very effective form of population control. So far wildlife officials have used hunters and trappers, as well as sharpshooters, to cull the pig population, but those efforts are being outpaced. Due to their fast breeding cycle and large litter sizes, scientists estimate that roughly 75 percent of the pig population must be culled very year to keep it stable. In addition to being a menace to farmers and landowners, uprooting seedlings, degrading forests, and contaminating waterways with coliform bacteria, pigs are also having a significant negative effect on the state’s wildlife. According to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, feral hogs are responsible for a decline in popular game species such as deer, turkey, and quail.