GATESVILLE — With a second-place Hog Out grant under its belt, Coryell County is teaming up with four neighboring counties to go after feral hogs with a new state program – CHAMP.
The acronym is for the County Hog Abatement Matching Program just launched by the Texas Department of Agriculture.
“Milam, Falls, Bell, Coryell and Hamilton counties are going to team up and apply for CHAMP,” said Don Jones, the commissioner who heads up Coryell County’s hog program.
“Each county is putting $6,000 into the pot,” Jones said. “If the state approves our plan, my understanding is (the state) will match our money dollar-for-dollar.”
Bell County is taking the lead on the project, Jones said.
The group met in Belton last week to prepare a hog plan to submit to TDA by the July 1 deadline.
Mike Marshall, who was named Leon River Watershed coordinator last month, is helping the group complete the CHAMP application.
With Marshall’s help, Jones said, “We’ve got a pretty good chance” of having the CHAMP plan approved.
Marshall is charged with implementing the Leon River watershed protection plan aimed at removing the watershed from the Environmental Protection Agency’s “impaired” list by reducing fecal coliform bacteria load in the river.
“Feral hogs have a gigantic impact” on the water contamination, Marshall said. “There are an estimated 26,000 feral hogs in the watershed, wallowing and defecating.”
Feral hog management would have the second-biggest impact on reducing river contamination, he said.
Moving water sources to keep cattle away from the river would have the biggest impact.
“One of the biggest things I can do to control the feral hog impact is to help the counties get more funding for feral hog abatement,” Marshall said.
More help is on the way.
Coryell County soon will get a feral hog assistant from the Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension Service, said James Cathey, extension program leader for wildlife and fisheries sciences who is heading the search to fill the position.
Meanwhile, Jones has been tussling with the Texas Department of Agriculture over the most efficient way to spend hog-abatement dollars.
The elation of winning $15,000 for second place in the Hog Out competition last year was short-lived when Jones learned in February that state agriculture officials would not allow Coryell County to use the winnings to continue last year’s successful bounty program.
State officials may have had a change of heart, Jones said last week, and “they may clear us to put a bounty on our pigs.”
Last fall, Coryell County budgeted $5,000 for hog bounties at $10 per tail and paid the entire amount for 500 confirmed pig kills.
“Some people still had pig tails in their freezer” after the Hog Out deadline passed, Jones said. “We might go with ears this year” to ensure the bounties go for freshly killed hogs.