Feral hogs no longer just a rural problem￼
By Kyle Mooty
It’s a problem that is not getting any better, and despite the State of Texas declaring a bounty on their lives, feral hogs continue to thrive while simultaneously wreaking havoc on the local environment.
It’s a simple math problem. Since 2013, more than 17,000 hogs have been removed from the Plum Creek Watershed, yet one sow on average (litter sizes, females, etc.) can be responsible for 128,000 pigs over a five-year stretch. By any formula, Texas is losing ground to the pigs.
It was once a problem in the rural areas, including farmland, but the ever-growing population has now found its way into cities, including rooting up yards in subdivisions and causing countless problems for homeowners and developers.
The bounty and other methods have removed 28 percent of the feral hogs (or wild pigs) each year, but at least 67 percent would need to be removed for the population to remain around its estimated 2.6 million, and that was the 2011 estimate from the Texas Parks and Wildlife. If 28 percent of the population were removed annually, the population would still double in six years.
The latest local area to sustain landscaping damage from the feral hogs was captured on video in the Summerside subdivision, where a sow and three young ones are seen running across yards and streets like thieves in the night. Several hogs have been hit on FM 1322, hardly enough to make a dent in the population but more than enough to cause damage to vehicles.
Also, the hogs can run up to 30-miles-per-hour and jump fences up to three-feet high, that is if they don’t just run right through some of the fences.
According to Wildlife Biologist Rick Taylor in his book, “The Feral Hog in Texas,” the pigs may appear basically the same as domestic hogs and will vary in color and coat pattern. A mature feral hog may reach a shoulder height of 36 inches and weigh from 100 to more than 400 pounds.
A 488-pound feral hog was killed in Liberty County Texas between Houston and Beaumont. And 11-year-old Alabama boy killed what is believed to be the largest, 1,051-pounds. It measured 9.4 feet from snout to tip of its tail. It also had five-inch tusks.
The Eurasian wild boar was introduced by Spanish explorers as domestic hogs, over the years many escaped, released, or just abandoned during the Civil War to run wild. Feral hogs are an invasive species and one of the most destructive. They are omnivorous – will eat just about anything from small mammals, eggs, nuts, insects, grubs, rodents, vegetation, roots, crops, including their own babies if need be (usually already dead).
Damage done to Texas crops due to destructive rooting habits estimated at more than $50 million annually and getting worse. Guestimates nationally approach $1.5 billion.
Their ability to carry and spread disease is dangerous to animals and humans.
The saying with the Texas Parks and Wildlife is that there are two types of landowners in Texas, those with wild pigs and those about to have them.
Joann Garza-Mayberry, a local Texas Game Warden, said the feral hog problem has been a problem for as long as she can remember.
“They reproduce so quickly,” Garza-Mayberry said.
Garza-Mayberry said there has been much confusion regarding the bounty on the feral hogs.
“We field call after call where people think they can just show up in Caldwell County and shoot the hogs,” she said. “You need landowners’ permission. You don’t have to have a hunting license if you’re just shooting wild hogs, but you need a Hunter Education Certificate.”
With landowners’ permission, hunters can take feral hogs by most means and methods during any time of the year and there are no bag limits. They are not protected and are considered non-game animals.
Christiana Lopez, Watershed Coordinator for Plum Creek Watershed, said the feral hogs were first identified as a problem for the area a decade ago in 2012.
“Working with locals and the partnership, the Central Texas Feral Hog Task Force was formed in 2013,” Lopez said. “The goals of the program are one, feral hog abatement and control, and two, education. One major component is a feral hog bounty program.”
Another problem caused by the feral hogs is they are responsible for 53 percent of the E. coli bacteria found in a tracking study.
On May 12 at Lockhart State Park, the first feral hog workshop of 2022 take place as part of the Riparian and Ecosystem Training Workshop. The event is free and open to the public.
Lopez said Lockhart neighborhoods are not alone is sustaining damage from the feral hogs as Kyle City Parks have also been a victim.
Other statistics on the feral hogs include that they have excellent smell, detecting odors from up to seven miles away and 25-feet deep. They do not have as good of eyesight or hearing. They only forage at night because they have no sweat glands, therefore staying cool by eating and finding water at night.
The feral hogs live from 4-8 years and have a litter every 5-14 months, yielding 1.5 litters per years with an average of 5.6 offspring with each litter.
Research is still under way for contraceptives and toxicants for the feral hogs.
According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife, the only natural predator for feral hogs is the Mountain Lion, and until that becomes another issue altogether, local homeowners and Texas authorities hope research techniques as well as the bounty begin to pay bigger dividends on the pigs’ population.