Texas' wild hog numbers lead country


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Drizzt
February 19, 2003, 06:53 PM
Texas' wild hog numbers lead country

By BEVERLY MOSELEY
Land & Livestock Post

They tramp over property lines without a care, leaving damaged fences in their wake. They turn modest mud puddles into huge wallows. They root their way across lush hay meadows, leaving them looking like mine fields.

Feral hogs are the demolition experts of nature. And they continue to increase their numbers in Texas, not to mention their damage to crops, pastures and wildlife habitat.

“I tell people in East Texas there are only two types of landowners. Those that have feral hogs and those that are going to get them,” said Billy Higginbotham, extension wildlife & fisheries specialist at Texas A&M University at Overton. “I don’t think anybody can totally eradicate them. The best we can do is try to manage them.”

Higginbotham said Texas has the largest feral hog population, followed by California and Florida. He estimated Texas’ population at around one million to two million head.

“From 1985 to 1995, an explosion happened to the population,” said Higginbotham. “Now every county in East Texas has feral hogs. They have a tremendous home range. They move along creeks and rivers just like they were a highway.”

In East Texas, hog damage can be seen in coastal bermuda grass pastures and hay meadows.

“They’re looking for grubs, worms and roots,” he added.

To the west and north of East Texas, near the Red River, hogs are damaging row crops. In South Texas, they damage peanut crops. And, in southwest Texas, hogs are known to prey on lambs and kid goats.

“You have to go as far as the west Transpecos region and parts of the Panhandle to find counties with no hogs,” he said.

Feral hogs are either wild domestic hogs, European wild hogs or a cross between the two. Adult hogs can weight more than 400 pounds. Sows [females] and their young travel together in small groups. Boars normally join up with groups just for breeding purposes.

Management and Control

From a wildlife standpoint, landowners want to control hog populations because they compete for food with native species such as white tail deer, Higginbotham said.

“Hogs will out-compete deer for feed,” he added.

Acorns are one source of food that both hogs and deer enjoy. East and Central Texas had an abundant acorn crop last year. There should be a noticeable increase in feral hog numbers this spring because sows are in good breeding condition, Higginbortham said.

He noted that now is a good time for landowners to work at controlling their hog populations.

“January through February is a good window of opportunity to trap, because feed supplies are lower. A percentage of the hogs will probably be pregnant. You can do a lot of good by trapping now. A sow can have four to six pigs in a litter and in six to eight months her daughters can become pregnant,” he said.

There are three legal methods for controlling hog populations in Texas; live trapping, shooting and hunting with dogs.

“You’re not going to control the hog population with a gun,” Higginbotham said. “Anything you do, hunting, shooting and using dogs has to be done on a sustained basis.”

In fact, he said, feral hogs are so smart they’ll “go nocturnal” when there is a lot of shooting in one area. Indeed, landowners might never see the hogs, but their damage will be visible. Hog signs to look for include rubs on fence and telephone posts and pine trees.

“Anything with a lot of sap,” Higginbotham said.

He also noted that since food supplies are lower right now, hogs will come to baited traps easier.

Landowners typically use shelled corn to bait traps. However, Higginbotham suggested fermenting the corn for a few weeks to sour the grain.

“The smell from the fermented corn will also help draw them in. Hogs have a tremendous sense of smell,” he said.

Urban Control

Recently, wildlife biologist Linda Tschirhart-Hejl from Texas A&M has been receiving calls from homeowners on the west side of Bryan. She said the area still has a lot of brush and most of the time homeowners see a lone animal and some damage.

“A lot of times, hogs come in and do their thing and keep on moving, she said.

Tschirhart-Hejl suggested that homeowners use cyclone or electric fencing as hog deterrents.

“Hogs are real susceptible to electricity,” she said.

She also recommended that homeowners not feed wild hogs or try to catch or corner them.

“They are a wild animal and they can get aggressive,” she said.

Hog Hunting

Hog hunting continues to gain popularity in Texas because there is no season on them.

“They can be hunted 365 days of the year. When deer season is over, people want to keep hunting,” Higginbotham said. “A lot of people like to catch hogs with dogs. That’s gotten real popular.”

Feral hogs are considered exotics, but a generic hunting license is required by hunters, he said.

“Although, if they are damaging crops, landowners do have some leeway,” he added.

Once caught, there are several options for disposal.

“We don’t recommend that anybody catch hogs and stock them somewhere else,” he said.

Higginbotham said options include carrying hogs to a slaughter facility or holding them on site. However, he stressed that if hogs are held “for any amount of time,” there are guidelines from the Texas Animal Health Commission that must be followed.

Guidelines include stringent fencing and space considerations. For example, hogs must be kept certain distances from commercial pork operations due to disease considerations such as hog cholera, he said.

For hunters that dress-out hogs, health precautions should be taken.

Higginbotham said swine brucellosis, or “undulant fever,” is transmittable to humans and can be contracted while dressing and gutting hogs. Hunters should wear rubber gloves and eye protection. Also, he added that handling the reproductive tract is the main way hunters contract swine brucellosis.

“You’re not going to know if the hog has brucellosis just by looking at it,” he said.

According to the Texas Animal Health Commission, symptoms of people infected with brucellosis include chills and fevers that come and go, along with flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, body aches and headaches.

http://www.landandlivestockpost.com/livestock/020103feralpigs.htm

Sounds like there should be plenty of land-owners needing someone to help them out with this problem...

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Larry Ashcraft
February 19, 2003, 07:00 PM
I gotta idea. Somebody invite me to Texas to hunt hogs and I'll trade you a Colorado prairie dog hunt or two. We don't have wild hogs here. But we do have elk. ;)

Smoke
February 19, 2003, 07:02 PM
Just stating the obvious to me.....I hope other will understand the damage done by these pests.

I shoot all hogs on sight.

Jeeper
February 19, 2003, 08:38 PM
It is amazing how bad they tear up the dirt roads and everything else.

Carlos Cabeza
February 25, 2003, 06:27 PM
My brother bagged a large sow in East Texas last easter with his CCW. A 9mm S&W. He lives outside of Paris TX. I was so impressed with his shot I bought the beer all weekend !!!!:D

H&Hhunter
February 26, 2003, 12:34 PM
Just doing my part to bring ecological justice to the Texas Territories..;)

Art Eatman
February 26, 2003, 02:17 PM
I hate to stick a pin in Mr. Higginbotham's balloon, but the danged things are in the Davis Mountains, in Trans-Pecos Texas. About four miles northwest of McDonald Observatory, in Elbow Canyon. I'd guess his weight at around 250 pounds. His rooting around would have made my backhoe jealous!

Larry, where you at?

:D, Art

Greybeard
February 26, 2003, 02:49 PM
Teaching hunter ed. classes and receiving annual accident reports from Texas Parks & Wildlife about this time each year, I have watched statistics on feral hog hunting incidents steadily move upwards as they have bred and spread throughout the state. From about now until September, that will be one of the more common animals hunted, day or night, which is often a contributing factor in the accidents.
Feral hogs can be tough to put down and they have an attitude - they don't like gettin' shot. Way too many folks get hurt each year in the midst of an adreneline rush when trying to track down or finish off a wounded hog. Know where your buddies are at all times! Beyond hunter orange clothing, a decent caliber and good shot placement, highly recommended equipment is a good pair of running shoes or tree-climbing boots. :D

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