Baits containing sodium nitrite as a way to control feral hogs are showing promise for LSU AgCenter researchers. LSU AgCenter animal science researcher Glen Gentry said his current research project is part of a grant funded by the Pennington Family Foundation.

“With this grant, we will be looking at the use of sodium nitrite as bait that shows some promise in eliminating feral hogs,” he said.

There are three thrusts involved in being successful in the use of this chemical in dispatching the animals, he said.

“First, we need to find an effective dose to eliminate the animal,” Gentry said. “Second, we need a medium to effectively administer the dose, and third, we need a delivery mechanism to selectively target this anima.”

Currently he is testing different flavors that the pigs are attracted to, which is proving to be more difficult than first expected.

“What we are finding is that the pigs are attracted to certain flavors, such as strawberry, which they seem to like,” Gentry said. “However, the grain-based bait has some problems.”

When the sodium nitrite is added to the mix, consumption tends to drop off, he said.

“Thus we are looking at semi-solid bait forms developed by LSU AgCenter researcher Zhijun Liu in the School of Renewable Resources,” Gentry said. “Just like using gummy bears, this is a way to hide the salty and bitter taste of sodium nitrite.”

The sodium nitrite is effective in taking the oxygen out of the hog’s blood through the formation of methemoglobin. The process causes them to become drowsy, lie down and expire. At the right level, this will happen in most mammals, but deer and some other animals are less sensitive to the chemical.

“All mammals, including humans, have an enzyme that is able to change methemoglobin, which cannot bind oxygen back to hemoglobin,” Gentry said. “But pigs don’t have as much of this enzyme, so it takes less sodium nitrite to overload their system.”