Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples announces the "Get the Hog Outta Texas" campaign at River Legacy Park in Arlington. Staples is joined by Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley and Arlington Mayor Dr. Robert Cluck.
By Matt Felder
Wild hogs beware! There is a bounty on your head. The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) is stepping up efforts to control these menacing creatures.
With as many as 2 million feral hogs causing millions of dollars in urban and rural property damage across the Lone Star State each year, the state’s agriculture agency is challenging all 254 Texas counties to step up efforts to decrease the state’s feral hog population.
"Not only are feral hogs a costly nuisance to agricultural operations and wildlife habitats, but they are increasingly finding their way into urban areas and destroying residents’ yards, public parks and golf courses," Ag Commissioner Todd Staples said.
"On my ranch in East Texas, I have eliminated a number of hogs and I am asking Texans around the state to step up and join the county challenge to learn about feral hogs and how best to legally hunt and trap them in their areas. These hogs, which number in the millions and are capable of breeding twice a year, wreak havoc on property and also can pose a health threat to humans through disease and automobile accidents."
Vehicle collisions with feral hogs cause an estimated $1,200 in damage per collision and create safety hazards for those involved. Annually, the hogs cause over $400 million in damages. Staples says it’s time to turn the tide.
The theme of the campaign is "Get the Hog Outta Texas." The challenge, which has recruited nearly 60 counties so far, will run through Oct. 31. A grant will be given to the counties with the most hogs removed. The announcement of the new program came Oct. 4 in Arlington at River Legacy Park. It’s one metropolitan area of the state that is being devastated by the increase in hogs, proving that the growing problem is not unique to rural Texas.
"Many people don’t understand how serious this problem is," says Arlington Mayor Dr. Robert Cluck. "They’re all over Texas. They’re in Arlington. They’re in this park. We have to become highly aware of what they can do to humans and to vegetation and to parks."
Feral hogs commonly destroy urban yards, parks and golf courses, as well as rangeland, pastures, crops, fencing, wildlife feeders and other property. Additionally, they carry brucellosis, contribute to
E. coliand can spread diseases in Texas streams, ponds and watersheds.
Wild hogs are not a problem you would expect to find in Tarrant County, which is the third largest county in Texas by population.
"What we have found—especially in our northwest section of Tarrant County, which is a little bit more rural—is that the hogs up there are destroying yards, they’re destroying crops and they’re a real danger and a menace to the folks up there," says Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley.
According to Dr. Billy Higginbotham, Texas AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist, the hog problem has escalated into the urban and suburban areas over the last 15 to 20 years. There are very few counties in the state today that don’t have a problem with damage caused by these animals.
"We have shown that landowners can be successful at managing the damage and reducing the economic loses to agriculture. Those same best management practices can be employed in both urban and suburban areas to minimize or control the damage," Higginbotham says.
TDA works with the Texas Agri-Life Extension Service to reduce the number of feral hogs in Texas, and in turn, saves Texas landowners millions of dollars. Participants in educational programs on feral hog management reported a savings of $1.7 million in the past year. Additionally, feral hog management efforts in just five months in 2010 resulted in further savings of $1.58 million in damages averted, reflecting a conservative estimated return of $20 in savings for every $1 invested.
However, even with the best efforts of state agencies and landowners, numbers continue to increase because the reproduction rate of feral hogs is exponential. A female hog can start reproducing in the first year of life and have two or more litters of four to eight pigs each year.
Feral hogs are also detrimental to other forms of wildlife. They are predators of lambs, kid goats, baby calves, newborn fawns and ground-nesting birds, mainly quail. They also compete for food and space with many native species of wildlife.
Experts say new tools to control feral hogs are under development.
"We’ve got some great research on sterilants and baits and toxicants being conducted throughout the state," Higginbotham says. "So the more tools we can add to our tool box, the better off we’ll be."
Higginbotham hopes the research will pay dividends during the next three to five years.
Commissioner Staples says landowners need to act now.
"The goal—if we will do this statewide and if all landowners will stand up and help trap and eliminate these hogs on a targeted, time-specific basis—is there will be no place for them to hide and we really can get the hog outta Texas."
More details about the county challenge for "Hog Out Month—Get the Hog Outta Texas" can be found at www.TexasAgriculture.gov under Most Popular Links.