RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – Wild pigs cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damage annually in Texas and as Richard Moore explains the hogs are proving to be extremely difficult to control.
Feral hogs, essentially domestic pigs gone wild, are a huge problem for farmers and ranchers throughout Texas. With an estimated population of some three million, the prolific pigs have spread rapidly in past decades, and just about every ranch in deep South Texas is plagued by pigs.
The destructive hogs inflict as much as $500 million annually to agricultural crops, waterways, and wildlife. With near-constant rooting and wallowing, they cause damage wherever they go, and they are in at least 240 of the states of 254 counties.
Early Spanish explorers were likely the first to introduce hogs into what is new Texas more than 300 years ago. Later, settlers brought them in as livestock and over the years many have escaped and rapidly reproduced.
In the 1930s European wild hogs or Russian boars were imported into Texas by ranchers for sport hunting, and many of them eventually escaped, interbreeding with the established feral hog population.
With some individuals weighing more than 400 pounds, a pack of wild pigs can do a lot of damage as the omnivorous porkers will eat just about anything they encounter from native vegetation to quail eggs and fawns.
The feral hogs are considered fine table fare by many, and Texas hunters, trappers and helicopter gunners kill more than 750,000 pigs annually, but the hogs are reproducing faster than they are being eliminated and a toxin utilizing sodium nitrite is being studied to determine if it is safe to use.
By some estimates, just to stabilize the state’s wild hog population would require killing 70% annually for repeated years, and that would be challenging as the wily hogs often go nocturnal when hunted.