Feral hogs carry diseases, contaminate water bodies, destroy pastureland | Agriculture

As of 2016, 99.6 percent of Texas counties had feral hogs, a wildlife specialist said last week.

“In 2016, the states around us now have pigs,” he said. “We had people coming to Texas, buying feral hogs and taking them over state lines and releasing them for hunting reasons.”

Tomecek spoke on the wild hog problems during Thursday’s South Texas Farm and Ranch Show.

In 2011, about 25,000 feral hogs were trapped, and this year, more than 35,000 hogs have been trapped, Tomecek said. One sow has the capacity to produce 50 offspring in less than two years, and the animals don’t have many predators.

“When (feral hogs) cool off in our water, they cause problems like bacterial contamination, E coli., increased runoff and sedimentation,” he said.

The hogs also destroy roots of native trees like pecan and oak.

“The trees I want to have in the state of Texas I can’t have because I’m losing my seed banks, and the ones I don’t want pigs are spreading round and round,” Tomecek said.

Feral hogs can carry up to two dozen diseases that can spread to livestock, including pseudorabies, brucellosis and anthrax, he said.

They’ve also caused thousands of acres to go out of hay production by destroying the fields.

“I no longer have hay available to feed my stock; areas are damaged by pigs,” Tomecek said. “Damage to crops is not unusual to anyone anymore. The problem of pigs is here, and it’s here to stay.”

To help control the population of hogs, they can be trapped, hunted, shot from a helicopter or caught by trained dogs, he said.

When trapping hogs, slowly set up the trap one piece at a time and include feed or bait, which will encourage the hogs to come in, Tomecek said. Making them comfortable coming into the trap will allow a large catch.

Shooting and hunting hogs doesn’t lower numbers by much, but it can push them out of the area. Eventually, they’ll come back. Using trained dogs to go after them can also pressure them out of the area.

Chemical control for hogs is on the horizon and is needed to control the problem, he said. First, it must be ensured the method is safe for people and livestock, effective and economical. Sodium nitrate might be used in the future and will soon be going through field trials.

“There is no silver bullet solution, and there will never be one,” Tomecek said.

Donald Prause, of Yoakum, who listened to the presentation, said he didn’t know that many hogs were around. He hasn’t had too many problems on his land near Yoakum, but he said hogs are starting to come in.

“I’m glad they’re looking into something to control them because you can only shoot so many,” he said. “I didn’t know they carried that many diseases. They need to be stopped.”

Kathryn Cargo reports on business and agriculture for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at kcargo@vicad.com or 361-580-6328. Follow her on twitter @kathryncargo.

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