HOUSTON – Consider, for a minute, escaped beasts that are scary-looking, smart and multiply like crazy.
Now add in the incredible amount of damage they do by tearing up everything from agricultural crops, watersheds and Texas wildlands to home gardens and even the occasional golf course.
Wild Russian boars are taking a big bite out of pecan grower Bill Archer’s bottom line by rooting through his orchards.
“Probably about $10,000 a year,” Archer told KPRC2.
In 2018, feral hogs caused over $500 million in damage statewide, according to Mike Bodenchuk. He’s the state director of the Texas Cooperative Wildlife Services Program. The program tracks wildlife damage.
Wild Russian boar hunt
Most people call these animals feral hogs. But they’re not just domestic pigs gone wild.
The first feral hogs in the Lone Star State were descendants of escaped domestic pigs brought to what is now Texas by Europeans. For about 400 years, the feral hogs roamed remote corners of the state in small family groups. In the 1930s, '40s and '50s, wild Russian boars were imported to Texas for sport hunting. Some of those escaped, too. They quickly started breeding with the feral hogs.
According to Bodenchuk, “The hybrids are very good at having larger litters and surviving at a higher rate than true Russian boars.”
Now, Texas is experiencing a population explosion of problematic pigs.
What do feral hogs look like?
Some look like hairy barnyard pigs with short legs and large bodies. Those with a high percentage of wild Russian boar in their bloodlines have larger heads with really big sharp tusks, a more slender body and longer legs. They might also have a tufted tail.
How fast do they reproduce?
Feral hogs in Texas can have up to three litters every two years. Each litter can have anywhere from four to 16 piglets.
What does that mean for the Lone Star State?
Bodenchuk said, “Pig populations can double over a five-year period.”
Derrick Banks from the Fort Bend County Extension Office, sums up the proliferation of pigs this way: “There’s two types of people in Texas. People that have feral hogs and people that are about to have ‘em.”
What can you do to keep feral hogs away from your property?
- Keep trash cleaned up. It may look like garbage to you, but to them it’s a buffet.
- Water on alternating schedules so the feral hogs don’t learn when to come root through your lush, wet lawn.
- Control grub worms. Feral hogs consider them a tasty snack and will tear up a suburban garden to get at them.
Landowners, rancher and farmers:
- Use hog wire fencing. Feral hogs use their powerful snouts to lift up and sneak under barbed wire fences.
- Trap feral hogs invading your land. Corral traps are preferred. This type of trap gets the entire sounder. Sounder is the official term for a group of feral pigs. If the entire sounder isn’t caught at the same time, the ones that get away become “trap smart” and avoid traps in the future.
According to Bodenchuk, “In Texas, there are no restrictions on hunting feral hogs. It’s open year-round. Nighttime hunting is effective and a lot of people take advantage of that, not just to reduce the number but to also change their behavior and chase them away from crops.”