After watching LSU lose another heartbreaker to Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide, it got me thinking about feral hogs and nutria rats. That’s right – feral hogs and nutria rats.
What do feral hogs, nutria rats, and Nick Saban have in common? They drive the people of Louisiana absolutely crazy. Try as we might, those varmints just seem to stay one-step ahead of us.
Did you know that there are believed to be over 500,000 feral hogs running around Louisiana tearing up valuable farmland? Wild hogs do more than $1 billion worth of damage to farms nationwide.
The problem with feral hogs is that they rapidly reproduce. Sows can have up to 10 piglets per litter and reach sexual maturity at 6 months of age. They can produce up to 2 litters per year and with no natural predators, the piglet survival rate is nearly 100%.
Louisiana’s feral hog problem got so bad that over the summer the legislature tried to pass a law that would have allowed for around-the-clock hog hunting as a means to try to control the overwhelming population growth.
Wild hogs even plague New Orleans. In speaking at the hearing on around-the-clock hog hunting, Senator J.P. Morrell commented: “In Orleans Parish, hogs are a big problem. If we had the money, we would put bounties on them.”
Doesn’t our feral hog problem sound a lot like our struggle with Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide? Year after year, the Saban Sow gives birth to liters of talented Alabama piglets. Graduate Mark Ingram? Enter Trent Richardson. Graduate Trent Richardson? Enter T.J. Yeldon. Graduate Julio Jones? Enter Amari Cooper. They just seem to pop up everywhere. And Nick Saban seems to have no consistent predator in the Southeastern Conference.
Nutria rats are no better. The nutria rat is a nasty little swamp critter that has webbed feet, shaggy brown fur, and big orange teeth. Nutria, originally from South America, were brought to Louisiana in the early 19th century and farmed for their fur. As the fur declined in popularity, nutria farms were shut down and the rats released into the wild.
In the 1950’s there were believed to be over 20 million nutria rats running around Louisiana. Nutria are known for their hearty appetite and feed on root systems. Without the root systems, the land becomes more vulnerable to erosion and flooding. For over 50 years, these little rats devastated the Louisiana coastline by eating through the wetland vegetation that was necessary to prevent the marshes from turning into open water. Experts believe that nutria rats impacted over 80,000 acres of Louisiana’s vulnerable coastline.
In 2002, Louisiana implemented measures to try to control the overpopulation of nutria rats, including a $4 bounty on each rodent killed.
One of my favorite Louisiana stories involves the pick-up truck posse of the colorful former sheriff of Jefferson Parish, Harry Lee. Sherriff Lee’s posse roamed Jefferson Parish at night blasting nutria rats from the back of pick up trucks as they attempted to eat through the levees that protected the parish from flooding.
Doesn’t our nutria rat problem sound a lot like our struggle against Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide? Weren’t we the ones that introduced Coach Saban to the Southeastern Conference? Weren’t we the ones that introduced him to our fertile Louisiana high school football programs? Now, year after year, we watch as Saban and his teams chew through yards of the football field both on the ground and through the air as they compete for national titles. Our colorful Coach Miles and his pick-up truck posse chase these varmints away and snag Louisiana blue chip prospects like Leonard Fournette and Malachi Dupre. But Coach Saban always seems to sneak back in and start chewing on our levees.
So as we watch Coach Saban and his Crimson Tide continue to compete for a coveted spot in the College Football Playoff, smile just a little at the similarities between feral hogs, nutria rats, and Nick Saban.