Wet, mild weather improved winter pastures during the last week of January, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

The winter storm that struck Feb. 1 brought more moisture, which should benefit crops, but the extreme cold was expected to further stress livestock.

But if there's a silver lining to weather this time of it year, it’s that conditions are optimal for feral hog control, said Billy Higginbotham, AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist.

"February is a month when we really need to concentrate control of feral hogs for a number of reasons," Higgibotham said.

This is because during the last 30 to 45 days of winter, native food supplies are becoming scarce and hogs are on the move in search of something to eat, he said.

"This makes them more vulnerable to some of our control techniques, such as trapping, shooting and snaring, because they are moving and in search of food," he said.

Another thing to consider, Higginbotham said, is that sows that were bred in late fall will be due to having litters in mid-spring.

The typical litter size is four to six piglets, and a sow can have at least one litter a year. They are one of the most reproductive large mammals on Earth, he said. "Therefore, we've got this window of opportunity over the next 30 to 45 days prior to spring green-up when we need to concentrate control efforts."

No one really knows how many feral hogs there are in Texas, Higginbotham said. "But we do know that regardless of the population out there, the economic damage can be drastically reduced by adopting best management practices," he said.

For ground-based and aerial hunters, the advantages of feral hogs being on the move are obvious, he said. In areas like East Texas, where there is more cover, the name of the game is trapping, ground-shooting and snaring. For trappers, it's important to fit the size of the trap to the size of the herd, which is called a "sounder."

He recommended that landowners "get the hogs on bait."  This means getting them used to visiting a location for food, usually shelled corn. Then, using automatic cameras or other means, the landowner needs to estimate the size of the hog herd and construct a trap size accordingly.

It's not too late this year to get started on getting the hogs on bait, he said, but even it were, it's a good idea to do it anytime a landowner sees signs of feral hog damage. More information on controlling feral hogs can be found at http://feralhogs.tamu.edu/.