GATESVILLE — Coryell County commissioners will again participate in the Hog Out state grants program, and hope to improve the chances of winning a grant by inviting the public to pig out on free barbecue.
The commissioners voted Monday to apply for the Texas Department of Agriculture program aimed at encouraging Texas counties to reduce the feral hog population. Grants of $20,000, $15,000 and $10,000 will be awarded to the three highest scoring counties.
The county will document the number of feral hogs killed in the county from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, as well as the number of participants in education programs about “feral hog abatement technologies” during the same period.
The program awards “half a point per hog and one point per (participant),” County trapper Lawrence Pruitt told commissioners.
Commissioner Jack Wall suggested the county host public barbecues to “educate” people on feral hog abatement and count each person attending the barbecue as a “participant” for purposes of the application.
Pruitt said the county could rent a helicopter and shoot hogs from the air as part of the abatement plan, but cautioned the aerial shooting should not be done until February, after deer-hunting season.
The commissioners named one of their own — Commissioner Don Jones — as Hog Out project coordinator, replacing former County AgriLife Extension Agent Lyle Zoeller, who has joined the Bell County extension office.
Texas is home to about 2.6 million feral pigs, the largest wild pig crop in the United States, according to the Texas Department of Agriculture. The destructive critters wreak havoc on livestock, crops, pastures, roads, fences, ponds and wildlife habitat.
Texas AgriLife Extension Service estimates feral hog damage costs the state economy $500 million a year, and without aggressive measures to control the population, the problem will only get worse.