The U.S. Agriculture Department is known for its army of statisticians packing yardsticks and calculators to measure wheat and count soybeans.
But the agency needs more firepower for another kind of rural reckoning and is gearing up with thermal imaging weapons.
In its crosshairs are aggressive feral hogs that can weigh more than 400 lbs (180 kg) and have been known to carry off newborn calves. They cause about $1.5 billion of damage every year to farm communities and fields, say department officials, and now there are worries they may help spread a deadly pig virus.
So the USDA wants to buy thermal scopes that snap onto high-powered rifles to kill the wild beasts.
“We’re going to get them, oh yes we are,” said Jason Wilking with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which has put out bids for 11 scopes since April 7.
The thermal scopes are part of a $20 million nationwide project to combat the feral swine, which have gobbled down apples in New York state, cleaned out cornfields in North Carolina, and even devoured bovine calves in Mississippi.
Still I’d rather see people just lifting hunting regulations on destructive invasive species. Let sportsmen and women kill the pests spending their own dime, and work hard to make the sport more accessible to new hunters. One of my bucket-list items is to go hog hunting in the Southern US. I like to eat pig products, they seem like an interesting species to hunt, and they cause a TON of damage so every one I kill I’m doing the country a little favor. Also hogs are a domesticated species brought over from Eastern Europe, so they are considered an invasive species, so wiping them out is NOT an environmental issue like say wiping out wolves or deer, Turkeys or moose.
In the freshwater fishery there are some lakes, streams, and rivers where it is a crime to live-release certain introduced species. Why is it these other species need permits and seasons when you can kill them? Just wipe them out and leave the regulations to the native populations!