Texas is hogtied. Wild pigs are closing in on other states, too.
The Lone Star State is grappling with the nation’s largest population of feral pigs — squealing, rooting hordes of hogs that can destroy farmland and wildlife habitats, sully public parks, attack pets and domestic animals, and spread diseases such as tuberculosis and even anthrax to farm animals.
The dreaded and free-roaming sus scrofa — also known as wild boars, piney-woods rooters, razorbacks, hawgs and a host of other monikers — now are thought to number 2 million in Texas alone.
The dark, furry and tusked creatures, with bristly hair along their backbones giving the appearance of razorlike teeth, have been declared a public nuisance by authorities in 19 other states, including Florida, Arkansas, Oklahoma, California, New Hampshire and Missouri.
“If you encounter a feral hog while hunting deer or other game, shoot it on sight,” the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s conservation department says in a hunting guide.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, meanwhile, has taken to trapping Ozark Mountain razorbacks, which have become all but revered as the symbol of the state and the mascot of the state university’s athletic teams. The hogs dine on delicate Southern lady slipper plants or rare wild ginseng.
The pigs are running amok, particularly in Texas, where the population has “skyrocketed” in the past decade, said Billy Higginbotham, a fish and wildlife specialist with Texas A&M; University. He tracks the pigs the best he can.
“We don’t really know how many there are,” he says, adding that no resident had anything “good to say about feral hogs.”
Mr. Higginbotham also tracks pig damage, which averages $4,184 per incident among farmers or landowners vexed by errant pigs wallowing in ponds, digging up fences, stealing feed or attacking pets.
They are not petite pigs: Feral versions can weigh up to 450 pounds.
“I fear allowing my grandchildren to go beyond the yard as they may be attacked by wild hogs,” one landowner wrote in a response to Mr. Higginbotham’s ongoing survey of residents with serious wild pig issues in 40 Texas counties.
Another farmer complained that he “had colts and horses cut up because of feral hogs.”
The pig problem has gotten so rampant that the Texas Health Commission and other state health departments stage regular “Feral Swine Symposiums” for ranchers and animal-behavior, forestry and conservation specialists.
In recent years, participants have explored trapping, fencing, euthanizing, use of “trailing and catch dogs” and even birth control to reduce the population.
Ironically, the rampaging pigs have historic pedigrees. The old lineage can be traced back to pigs that arrived with Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto in 1539 and Russian wild boars, which were introduced in America in the 19th century.View Entire Story
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