Feral hogs and the damaged yards and fields they leave behind have been popping up in Hood County.
The hogs, descendants of domesticated pigs crossed with Asian boars brought in for hunting, have been a constant issue for landowners, said Marty Vahlenkamp, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent for Hood County.
Other than bacon, the hogs do not provide a particular benefit to the ecosystem, he said.
Telltale signs of a hog infestation include dug-up yards and fields where the pigs turned over the soil in search of grubs and other subterranean food items.
While it may be easy to tell when hogs have been around, catching them in the act is harder, Vahlenkamp said.
“Hogs are nomadic and have a range they will travel in,” he said. “They will hit an area, and then you may not see them for a few weeks or months.”
The animals are nocturnal, adding to the difficulty.
The hogs travel in groups called sounders of sows, babies and an occasional boar, he said. They are mainly vegetarian but also eat insects and an occasional small animal or eggs of ground-nesting birds.
“There is a common saying. There are two types of landowners in Texas: those that have hogs and those that will have hogs,” Vahlenkamp.
Properties especially susceptible to repeat hog rooting are those near a constant water source, Vahlenkamp said.
“Hogs have to live close to a water source. That is their cooling mechanism. They don’t sweat like you and I,” he explained.
The water source could be a seasonal creek, a stock tank or river like the Brazos, he said.
Proximity to the river is part of the reason developments like Pecan Plantation see a higher number of complaints than others, Vahlenkamp said.
On a larger scale, local farmers and ranchers are heavily impacted when a sounder comes through their fields.
“They could get into a coastal hay field. Now, they have destroyed the crop, and it is hard to harvest the rest of the crop because of the ruts. Just like it is hard for the homeowner to mow their lawn,” Vahlenkamp said.
The hog population fluctuates with the weather conditions, going down in severe drought but soaring in good years as they birth up to 13 piglets twice a year, he said.
Methods of control include hunting and trapping, but those are not as effective if they do not remove an entire sounder at a time, he said. Farmers and ranchers have had some success with helicopter hunts and large traps, Vahlenkamp said.
Homeowners often don’t have space or legal ability to do that. But fencing could help.
“Most fences they can get through, but if a homeowner puts up a wrought-iron fence, that would be fairly effective,” Vahlenkamp said.
Another method is to remove a food source, said Pecan Plantation homeowner Carter Gresham.
“Two years ago, we had two incidents of hog damage in our backyard,” Gresham said. “Since then, I have treated our yard twice a year with grub control. Since then, I have had only one ‘exploratory’ incident with very minimal damage. You’ll never be completely rid of the potential for damage unless you fence everything off.”
Leaving dogs that bark outside is another option, Vahlenkamp said.
People and animals should be fairly safe from hogs unless they corner one of the animals or interfere with a piglet.
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