Texas, we have a problem.
Hunters in Texas have taken up arms to combat the hog epidemic for years. However, due to the astoundingly high rate at which wild hogs procreate, hunting alone is not enough to make a dent in the overwhelming population.
These agricultural terrorists have declared war on our lands. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”), there are more than 5 million feral swine in the United States. Texas currently has the highest population of feral hogs in any state, with some studies estimating Texas has between 30 and 41 percent of the entire U.S. feral hog population (approximately 1.5 million). They inhabit almost every county.
According to the USDA, the hog problem costs Texas a whopping $400 million in agricultural damage each year. Across the U.S., hogs cause an estimated $2.5 billion in damage annually and can now be found in 40-45 U.S. states. In Texas, it’s legal to hunt hogs year-round—and we’re only taking roughly 30% of the population.
Female hogs reach sexual maturity as young as three-to-four months of age. They come into estrus every 18-24 days and can have up to 12 piglets in one litter. With these gestation rates, how do we stop them? Can they be stopped?
Trapping, hunting, poisons, helicopters, night vision, silencers, and now hot air balloons are all part of the Lone Star State’s arsenal. More recently, the USDA announced $75 million in funding through the Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program (“FSCP”). The program is designed to help landowners manage hog populations through trapping and the use of modern technology.
Who’s to blame for Hogpocalypse? The first hogs to reach the Americas were introduced by early European explorers. At that time, many landowners allowed their domestic hogs to roam freely. Those that went off on their own started the first “feral hog” populations.
In the 1930s, European wild hogs, also known as “Russian boars,” were first imported and introduced into Texas by ranchers and sportsmen for sport hunting. Many of these European hogs escaped from game ranches and began free-ranging and breeding with feral hogs. Because of this crossbreeding, there are very few true European hogs remaining in Texas.
So how exactly do hogs affect us? Wild hogs are “opportunistic omnivores,” meaning they’ll eat just about anything. They can root as deep as three feet with their long snouts. They devour and destroy whole fields of sorghum, rice, wheat, soybeans, potatoes, melons and other fruits, nuts, grass, and hay.
Hogs erode the soil, muddy streams, and other water sources. They disrupt native vegetation and make it easier for invasive plants to take hold. Any food set out for livestock becomes a free-for-all, and feral hogs will occasionally eat young livestock. They also eat deer and quail and feast on the eggs of endangered sea turtles.
Hogs carry many diseases—the most notable being swine brucellosis, pseudorabies, and tularemia. Swine brucellosis was one of the first biological agents to be weaponized by the U.S. in 1952.
Fortunately, there are precautions hunters can take to avoid contracting any diseases a feral hog may be carrying. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, the best way is to use rubber gloves when field dressing or cleaning your kill, and of course, cook the meat thoroughly.
So, with all this hog chaos, is there light at the end of the tunnel? Not likely. However, there is one positive: these little monsters are delicious. Wild boar is leaner than pen-raised pork for those of you trying to maintain your girlish figures (just don’t eat old boars). The rib meat is so tender it falls off the bone.
Beginning September 1, 2019, restrictions on hunting feral hogs will be significantly relaxed. Once this new law is in effect, a person may kill a feral hog without a hunting license, so long as they are the landowner or have the consent of the landowner where the swine is present. Keep in mind, a person must comply with all state and federal firearms and weapons laws (including if a person is prohibited from owning, possessing, or transporting a firearm or ammunition), as well as city ordinances prohibiting the discharge of a firearm within city limits.
For more information on safety, health concerns, and hunting, click here to read a booklet provided by Texas Parks and Wildlife.
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