Some Harris County feral hogs head to food banks

HOUSTON – Plans are underway to trap feral hogs within Harris County, and then donate the meat to those in need.

Harris County Precinct 3 commissioner Steve Radack was recently granted a $217,000 contract to purchase four traps and deliver the wild pigs to USDA certified J&J Packing Company.

After the pigs are butchered, their meat will be sent to the Houston Food Bank for distribution to several charities. Two traps will be set near the reservoirs deep within George Bush Park, and two more will be set in Addicks reservoir.

"This is a huge problem," said Mike McMahan, who is the special activities coordinator with Harris County Precinct 3. "These wild hogs are predators, and they threaten domestic animals on private property as well as tear residential yards. They do most of their damage at night. They dig up our park and reservoir ground looking for food."

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture there are 5 million feral hogs in the United States. Half of the wild pig population is in Texas.

"They are multiplying rapidly," said Gail Keirn who is with the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Wildlife Research Center. "It is estimated that they have caused $1.5 billion dollars in damages a year," said Keirn.

The traps are currently being assembled and will span four acres.

"Because the traps are so large, the wild hogs will not be frightened off or warn the other pigs. The feral hogs will be transferred to the packing alive so they can be inspected before distribution," said McMahan.

"I don't understand why they have to kill them," said Joann Gordon who lives near George Bush Park. "I wouldn't want them getting into my yard or threatening my dog, so if something has to be done I think donating the meat is a good solution."

Experts from the USDA also indicate that when it comes to donating, or cooking, meat from any wild animal, there are various diseases and parasites that humans can contract. It is imperative to inspect the wild hogs before and after they are butchered.

The traps will be set within the next two weeks.

According to a spokesperson from the food bank, the meat is sent to a USDA approved facility to be processed. Once it is processed and passed the proper inspections it is then accepted by the food bank.