Smith: Feral hogs still costly problem across Texas
April 19, 2017 at 5:31 p.m.
Feral hogs in Texas continue to be a problem — and a costly one at that.
The early Spanish explorers first brought hogs with them as a reliable food source. This was more than 300 years ago, and the pigs have flourished since providing settlers with food as well as lard used for cooking.
In the 1880s during the war for independence with Mexico, many animals were released or escaped and a feral population developed. Past farmers marked hogs and let the animals free range, rounding them up during cold weather months to butcher and cure the meat for the rest of the year.
This practice allowed the animals to establish themselves and spread across the southern states.
In the 1930s, Texas ranchers and sportsmen introduced the European wild boar for hunting. These animals also escaped captivity one way or another and readily cross-bred with the resident feral herd. Today there are hardly any European traits present in feral hogs, but occasionally a hog with the European characteristics will show up.
The wild hogs destroy property, crops and directly compete with both domestic and wild game animals. There are approximately 1.5 million feral hogs in Texas and their distribution is nearly statewide. This of course puts the economical damage in the millions as well.
Back in February, the Texas agriculture commissioner, Sid Miller, approved the use of a Warfarin-based chemical to kill the animals. This started a controversy that has yet to be settled. Different groups opposed the widespread use of the chemical as inhumane and pointed out collateral damage to non-targeted species.
The validity of the chemicals claims is also under question by concerned citizens.
The city of Dallas opted to trap and control its hog problem instead of the poison. Australia tested the poison back in 1987 in a state forest. Although 187 hogs were killed, the Australians deemed the use of the poison inhumane and saide it should be outlawed. The poison causes the animal to bleed to death through its eyes, ears and mouth and other orifices and it takes 4 to 17 days for the animal to die.
Wild Boar Meat LLC asked a state district judge to put a hold on the agriculture commissioner's plan. The judge has issued a restraining order in the case and time will tell how this story ends.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has long been involved in feral hog control and has requested the research used by the EPA to evaluate the poison and has issued a statement holding its opinion until further investigation.
The internet is packed with opinions on the matter and the one thing everyone agrees on is the economic impact the hogs cause. There is however a large group of hunters and businesses using the feral hog as an economic resource.
For sure it is a many-sided debate and we shall see how it turns out.