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Can hunting eliminate Texas' feral hog problem?

Posted at 6:37 PM, Apr 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-08 19:37:35-04

CENTRAL TEXAS — Feral hogs continue to pose a threat to properties across Texas, which is why many hunters don't think twice about taking aim. But hunting for sport or defense might not be moving the needle.

There are more feral hogs in the state of Texas than most other states in the nation combined. Hogs have been a popular target for Texas hunters for years, and aside from the large numbers, it's easy to see why: they're a nuisance to property, they can be hunted with a wide range of guns, and it's easy to get involved. A law passed in 2019 allows Texans to hunt feral hogs on private property without a license.

Baylor student Matthew Stills says he mainly hunts deer and doves, but he wouldn't mind getting involved in hog hunting.

"I don't know about a pistol, but you could use, like, a rifle, AR-15, just something that you can get rounds out pretty fast," said Stills.

Feral hogs can be hunted for sport or as a means of defending land, but wildlife experts caution that hunting alone cannot solve Texas's hog problem, and in some cases, it might actually be contributing to it.

"Most folks are out hunting native game, usually white-tailed deer and they happen to see a pig, and they decide to shoot the pig," said John Tomecek, an extension wildlife specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife. "And that's helpful because it takes down a pig, but it doesn't address kind of a population-level problem."

Shooting wild hogs is a low-harvest method that can occasionally scatter the hogs into new areas, presenting a problem for someone else. Protecting your turf or crops is encouraged but Tomecek says the sheer numbers of hogs won't be fixed without adopting other methods.

"We would rather see folks engaging in higher-volume methods," said Tomecek. "So that might look like corral-style trapping, where the goal is to catch and remove this whole sounder of pigs."

But will those methods be widely adopted any time soon? The reality is that real change may be difficult to come by because there's money to be made when hogs are left to roam.

"One of the problems with pig hunting as an industry, and just to be candid about it, it has in some areas created an economic incentive to keep pigs around," Tomecek said.

Tomecek stresses that more public education about wild hogs is needed so that people will take the right steps to reduce the pig population.

For example, he noted that some people opt not to shoot the hogs because they think they are a native species.

Texas A&M AgriLife is using its outreach to teach the public that the wild hogs are, in fact, invasive and need to be dealt with.