Farmers and ranchers across the South, from California to Florida, have been dealing with the destruction wrought by wild pigs for several years. However, you know there’s a BIG problem when the big city dailies start publishing dire warning about the hog apocalypse. The Dallas daily is just one of many news outlets to go hog wild about this problem.
According to the Dallas Morning News, “Wild pigs may not look like much, but they’re among the most intelligent animals in the United States, which makes them formidable adversaries. And they’ve taken over Texas and have been documented in every county, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife.”
“If you’re not already dealing with pigs, you’re going to,” said Brett Johnson, an urban biologist for the city of Dallas.
The newspaper added that these pigs cost Texans about $52 million in agricultural damage every year!
Here’s Why Hogs Rule
It’s safe to say that the wild pig population explosion is a Malthusian nightmare. The numbers tell the tale and it is very depressing.
- Wild pigs can have two litters a year, typically giving birth to three to eight piglets per litter. Texans would have to remove two-thirds of the feral hog population every year to keep the number of pigs stable. Right now, the state is removing 29 percent of the population. That number has to (somehow) rise to 75 percent!
- They are mostly nocturnal, seeking cover near water and eating both plants and other animals.
- About 79 percent of the land mass in Texas is considered suitable environment for wild pigs, which descended from hogs brought in by European settlers in the 1500s.
- Adult feral hogs don’t have many natural predators and are highly adaptable. Tepid efforts to capture them may result in “trap-smart” pigs. Unprovoked attacks against humans are rare.
Some cities have taken up abatement efforts. Earlier this year, Dallas leaders approved a three-year $347,000 contract with a trapping company that corrals pigs on city-owned land and sells them to a meat-processing plant in Fort Worth.
The newspaper cautioned the city-slickers who wouldn’t know a pig from a peacock. “Even if you’re not a farmer, here’s why you should be concerned: Feral hogs tear up lawns, parks and golf courses; they skulk around highways and train tracks; and they poop in our water supply. Estimates peg the number of wild pigs in the U.S. at 4 million or more— and somewhere between 2 million to 3 million are in our state.”
Let’s DO Something
In the spirit of Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin and all of the other heroes of the Texas Independence 1836, I think it’s time to call in the cavalry of hunters from Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
In the words of that pork chop aficionado, the late Warren Zevon, y’all send lawyers, guns and money! OK, forget about the lawyers, unless they know how to shoot hogs! However, bring those guns with you.
Here are four things that can be done to begin to get the wild pig problem under control
#1 Add the talents and brainpower of Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife to the mix
This problem is bigger than “agriculture” and the misguided proposal of the commissioner of the Texas Department Ag to use warfarin to poison these animals proved this. Fortunately, the state legislature (not usually known for its good sense) killed this bonehead move before it became law.
Ultimately, this is a wild game management issue and the public policy and biological experts in the TDPW, who manage regulations and enforcement of hunting and fishing in the state need to get involved in this mess, pronto. They will need a budget and programs that make this hunting effort sustainable.
#2 Build consumer demand for this pork
There is definitely a place for the Agriculture folks to help. They need to start building a demand for the pork harvested by hunters and commercial meat purveyors. This can be done by enlisting the help of meat processors, farmers, ranchers and hunters and making the world understand the nutritional advantages and amazing flavor of this very lean meat. Developing recipes for wild pork (e.g. sausage) which are available online for no charge and getting high-profile “Food Network” type chefs involved will encourage consumers to give this nutritional and delicious meat a try.
#3 Reduce the out-of-state rates for hunting licenses that are issued for hog hunting
If we want the hunters who call themselves the “Cajun Navy” or the “Tennessee Volunteers” to come in a take home the hams, pork chops and backstraps of Texas hogs, we need to make it easier for them to afford the trip. Part of that involves making it less expensive to hunt hogs in Texas. Charge ten bucks (or less), call it the “Hog Wild” hunting license (which is good for 3-days) and promote it to the hunters in surrounding states. We could also point out that hog hunting is a year-round hunting opportunity. So, in the doldrums of summer, when no other hunting is available, hunters will have a place to keep their skills sharp and put some meat in the freezer.
#4 Build a database of places to hunt hogs
A hunter in Mississippi or Alabama has no idea where to start when looking for an opportunity to hunt wild hogs. Having the Ag Department put together a database of farms and ranches that want pigs harvested on their place and a list of processors who will get the meat ready to take home for a small fee will get hunters on the road to Texas!
Share Your Thoughts with Us
There are likely dozens of other great ideas to humanely reduce the number of wild hogs in Texas while still adhering to the principles of fair chase. If you are reading this post and have some, send them my way.
Something on your mind? Hit me up. From mule deer to music, I answer every email firstname.lastname@example.org.