The Texas AgriLife Extension Service has developed an online system to report feral hog activity that may be affecting water quality in the Plum Creek Watershed area.

The new system, being piloted in Caldwell and Hays counties, will be used to support efforts by the Plum Creek Watershed Partnership. The partnership consists of area landowners and citizens, city and county officials, and state and federal agencies working together to protect water quality in Plum Creek and its tributaries.

“The partnership has identified feral hogs as a significant potential source of water pollution in their watershed,” said Matt Berg, AgriLife Extension water quality program specialist and Plum Creek Watershed coordinator. “In response to this concern, we have developed an online tool to allow local residents and drivers passing through the area to report feral hog sightings and any evidence of activity.”

The system also will track feral hog damage and financial loss, as well as update the feral hog abatement efforts of several cooperating landowners, he added.

Public reporting of feral hog sightings and/or signs of damage will help locate areas of high activity and guide management efforts to reduce their impact in the watershed, Berg said. On behalf of the partnership, AgriLife Extension is requesting the assistance of watershed-area residents and visitors to help manage feral hogs by making use of the new system.

Individuals observing feral hogs or signs of possible damage by them are asked to make a report through the new Web site at http://plumcreek.tamu.edu/feralhogs/.

AgriLife Extension also has created a new position dedicated to feral hog management outreach in the Plum Creek Watershed through a Clean Water Act grant from the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board.

Chancey Lewis, the new AgriLife Extension assistant for feral hog management education, has been assigned to the Plum Creek Watershed area, which serves Caldwell, Hays and a small portion of Travis County. He will provide technical assistance to landowners, and educate them and others on feral hog biology, behavior and management options.

Lewis, who began his new position mid-April, can be contacted at 979-393-8517 or cdlewis@ag.tamu.edu.

“While feral hogs are often associated with crop losses and erosion impacts, they can also cause damage to livestock, pets, vehicles, lawns, wetlands, wildlife habitat, and other aspects of both rural and urban landscapes,” said Dr. Jim Gallagher, AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist in Uvalde.

Feral hog numbers have increased significantly over the last 15 years, and their destructive habits cause an estimated $52 million in damage annually in Texas, Gallagher said. Agricultural and wildlife habitat damage occur as a result of rooting, wallowing, predation and other feral hog behavior.

“Feral hogs also compete with wildlife and livestock for habitat, harbor endemic and exotic diseases, and transmit parasites to domestic livestock and humans,” he said.

Gallagher said feral hog distribution and behavior result in increases of sediments, nutrients and E. coli bacteria in streams and other water resources throughout Texas.

For more information regarding feral hog management efforts in the Plum Creek Watershed, go to: http://plumcreek.tamu.edu/feralhogs/.

For more information on the Plum Creek Watershed Partnership, contact Berg at 979-845-2862 or mberg@ag.tamu.edu.