Hog hunting is a popular pastime in Alabama, where feral pigs roam the better part of the state — but even the irrepressible Southern appetite for pork isn't enough to keep populations under control. After a $44 million loss in hog-damaged crops in 2009, authorities are looking at an unconventional solution: birth control.
AL.com reports that Auburn University, backed by the Alabama Farmers Federation, hopes to get feral hog populations down to a manageable level using birth control. Not that they expect these puckish pigs to pop pills; the contraceptives would be delivered with baited food.
There's just one problem: keeping other animals from taking the bait and ending up sterile.
“No species-specific oral contraceptive has been developed,” Steve Ditchkoff, associate professor at Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife, told AL.com. “But we're working on it.”
Though not originally native to Alabama, wild hogs first appeared in only a handful of counties before spreading to nearly the entire state, possibly due to trappers re-releasing live animals into new habitats. They breed quickly, reaching sexual maturity as early as 4 months of age with females giving birth to litters with as many as 12 piglets up to twice per year.
Auburn University's solution is not your average hormonal contraceptive. To make it pig-specific, researchers hope to initiate an immune reaction in the reproductive system, essentially making the pigs allergic to getting pregnant.