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The population growth of feral hogs in Texas averages from 18 percent to 20 percent annually. Consequently, it would take almost five years for a population to double in size if left unchecked.
Damage is no myth
One thing about feral hogs that is definitely not a myth is the huge amount of damage they do to crops, wildlife habitat and landscapes. “And from all indications, that damage is expanding in scope and range.”
At one time, feral hogs were mostly a rural or agricultural issue in Texas, “inflicting over $52 million in damage annually. But they have literally moved to town and are now causing significant damage in urban and suburban communities. This damage includes rooting landscapes, parks, lawns, golf courses, sports fields and even cemeteries, as they search for food.”
Some estimates show a single hog can cause more than $200 in damage a year.
“The $200-per-hog estimate doesn’t include the damage feral hogs do as they compete with other wildlife species, such as whitetail deer, for food and habitat. And some of the species challenged by feral hog invasions are endangered species.”
Ott says experts agree that landowners actively engaged in deer management should have a very low tolerance for feral hogs. And they do have options. “Texas AgriLife Extension Service has demonstrated that through education and outreach along with Wildlife Services-led control efforts, damage can be significantly reduced. In a 2006-07 study funded by the Texas Department of Agriculture, agricultural damage was reduced by 66 percent via control efforts in just two years.”
That means significant savings from costly damage. “Since 2007, subsequent studies by AgriLife Extension and again funded by the state’s department of agriculture confirmed that control measures such as trapping and shooting ‘prevented millions of dollars in damage by reducing feral hog populations.’”
Landowners can make a difference and are the first line of defense “since Texas is 95 percent privately owned land. This means arming the public with Best Management Practices and using various legal control methods to abate the damage by reducing feral hog populations.”
Ott says landowners and property managers have many options for information, including: http://feralhogs.tamu.edu or through Texas A&M AgriLife Extension offices. The AgriLife office in Nueces County is at 710 East Main, Suite 1 in Robstown or at http://nueces.agrilife.org/.
Farmers, ranchers, landowners and others also have many opportunities to learn more about feral hog control through county and regional conferences and seminars. Escalating feral hog numbers have prompted the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service to conduct educational workshops throughout the state.
“We try to keep the topics of these workshops pertinent to a particular region by addressing issues specific to that area,” said Jared Timmons, AgriLife Extension associate with the Department Of Wildlife And Fisheries Sciences stationed at San Marcos.
Some counties are using funds from a County Hog Abatement Matching Program or CHAMP, to address the feral hog issue.
“CHAMP is a grant from the Texas Department of Agriculture meant to assist counties with feral hog abatement,” says Dan Gaskins, AgriLife Extension assistant in Gatesville. “Coryell, Hamilton, Falls, Milam and Bell counties received a total of $25,000 in state funds that they must match for a total of $50,000 or $10,000 per county.”
Since part of that money must be used for educational purposes, Hamilton and Coryell counties recently joined forces to develop an area-wide workshop.
Part of the educational efforts includes debunking many of the myths. Separating fact from fiction improves the odds of managing one of the most damaging pests in Texas agriculture.