By Mason W. Canales
Killeen Daily Herald
CORYELL COUNTY - The county plans to participate in the Statewide Hog Out County Challenge again this year.
"Last year, we had $160,000 just in damages, and I don't have a figure for this year yet ... but it will be more than that," said Lawrence Pruett, a county trapper for the U.S. Agriculture Department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services. "We can't get rid of them, but we can try to keep their population down."
On Sept. 12, the Coryell County Commissioners Court approved participating in the Texas Department of Agriculture's Hog Out Month County Challenge for the second year.
According to information from Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staple's office, a grant will be awarded to the five counties with the most hogs removed and the highest participation in feral hog abatement programs from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31.
County Judge John Firth said the grant monies have doubled to $60,000 for this year, and he hopes the county's participation also will double.
"We are trying to encourage as many landowners in the county to sign up for the state trapper program, which would allow both trappers and helicopters to access their properties," Firth said.
Hogs are a big problem in Coryell County as they can cause damage to hunting sites, farm lands and ranch lands, said Andrew Alexander, a Coryell County game warden with the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife.
"For the farmers, hogs will come in overnight, and they will take out what they have planted, and the farmers will have to end up replanting their crops," Alexander said. "With ranchers, they are destroying fences and will tear up grazing lands."
Hogs eat fawns
On hunting properties, hogs are also known to take out deer stands and eat baby fawns, Alexander said, noting that he averages about six calls a week on hog issues.
"The last couple of years, hogs have been running the corn out; a lot of farmers didn't even plant corn this year," Pruett said. "When we get the grain coming up, they will move into a place and just stay there. They will hit it every night."
Pruett said he has recorded more than 1,300 hog deaths this year. He has killed more than 300 hogs in the last nine months, and landowners have reported about 700 kills. Helicopter assaults have resulted in 351 kills. The assaults included a three-day flight period in February and a one-day flight period in July.
Drought conditions haven't shrunk the hog population, Pruett said. Hogs congregate around properties with water and travel in circles to other properties with water.
By joining in the feral hog abatement program, trappers can hit adjacent properties one right after other without the hogs escaping.
"Hogs, just like any other animal, will become very creative about escaping when they believe there will be threats and move from one property to the next to avoid trappers," Firth said.
Firth, Alexander and Pruett recommended that landowners join the feral hog abatement programs by calling the Agrilife Extension office.
"The more help we can get trying to control them, the better off we are going to be," Pruett said.
Contact Mason W. Canales at email@example.com or (254) 501-7474. Follow him on Twitter at KDHCoveeditor.
Facts about feral hogs
Feral hogs cause an estimated $400 million in damages annually.
There are an estimated 2 million feral hogs in Texas.
Feral hogs are predators of lambs, kid goats, baby calves, newborn fawns and ground-nesting birds, and compete for food and space with many native species of wildlife.
Feral hogs commonly destroy urban yards, parks and golf courses, as well as rangeland, pastures, crops, fencing, wildlife feeders and other property. Additionally, they contribute to E. coli and other diseases in Texas streams, ponds and watersheds.
Vehicle collisions with feral hogs cause an estimated $1,200 in damage per collision and create safety hazards for those involved.
- Texas AgriLife Extension Service