GRETNA, La. (AP) — With an estimated half-million wild pigs roaming Louisiana, there are few predators to curtail their numbers.

NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune reported Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office sharpshooters will be enlisted to reduce the size of the hog population in an attempt to stem damage to levees on the parish's west bank.

Sheriff Newell Normand signed an agreement Aug. 29 that enlists deputies for hog eradication.

The sheriff and Susan Maclay, president of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-West, will soon meet to discuss the arrangement.

Levee authority regional director John Monzon said the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has added feral hogs to the sheriff's permit for nuisance animals. He said the first hunt will be no later than Oct. 1.

Officers will use .308-caliber weapons with silencers, night vision scopes and thermal imaging cameras in tracking the animals during their weekly outings.

The hunt will begin on levees near Jean Lafitte National Park off Leo Kerner Parkway. Deputies also will target an area on Lake Catouatche.

The hogs rut through the berms while looking for grub worms and arrow root. Fixing the damage is costly and repairs are sometimes short-lived. The authority spends up to $5,000 for each repair, officials said.

The authority board has approved up to $25,000 for hog eradication. Each deputy will be paid $30 per hour or up to $600 per hunt. Teams of four, including a safety officer, a spotter and two shooters, will conduct the weekly outings.

Once the hogs are shot, the bodies will be placed on the national park's property and allowed to decay or be eaten by other animals. The meat cannot be sold to processors because of concerns about possible diseases.

However, Monzon said the area's hog population appears healthy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted tests on the hogs last December and found no evidence of swine flu or rabies, he said. Further tests are planned.

The Sheriff's Office has a history of tackling nuisance animals, beginning with nutria in the 1990s. Monzon said officers shot 250 of the large rodents on the first day of that effort. They currently kill about 30 weekly to keep the numbers down, Monzon said.

Deputies also were called upon after Hurricane Isaac in 2012 in response to reports of coyotes.

———

Information from: The Times-Picayune, www.nola.com