What’s big, hairy, germy and can devour a 12-pound turkey without any help? No, it’s not that annoying uncle you’ll be sitting next to while he snores his way through the Cowboys game on Thanksgiving — I’m talking about an even bigger menace: the feral hog.
Wild hogs are a serious and growing problem in Texas, not only for farmers and ranchers, but also in terms of environmental and economic impact. It’s estimated that a single feral hog causes about $200 per year in economic damage, and with the wild hog population topping nearly 3 million this year, plus factoring in the projected 20 percent annual population growth rate (if left unchecked), the feral hog population in the Lone Star State could shoot to nearly 6 million in only 5 years — translating to over a billion dollars a year in economic damage in Texas alone.
As their population expands, so does their range, and wild pigs have increasingly impacted suburban areas of the state, as well as major cities, by damaging lawns, park land, golf courses, sports fields and other green spaces.
Feral hogs also negatively impact water quality. Since they can’t sweat, pigs cool off in streams, ponds and lakes, and in doing so, increase bacterial, nutrient and sediment levels in those waters. In some cases, the water quality has gotten so poor that fish and other aquatic life have died off. Feral hogs also carry diseases that can be transmitted to domestic animals through contaminated water.
What can be done to fight the growing problem? Well, state biologists and officials say the battle will likely never be won, so achieving and maintaining acceptable levels of damage should be the goal. In addition to shooting and trapping wild hogs, control efforts include the use of contraceptives and poisons, but those strategies are still in the developmental stages.
Shooting and trapping nuisance animals, however, is time- and energy-intensive, and traps aren’t smart enough to discern the difference between a calf wandering into the pen for a snack and a group of wild hogs crashing in for dinner.
Until now, that is. A company called Wireless Traps has developed a remote-controlled gate on a round pen that allows users to trap wild hogs and other damage-causing critters using a smartphone app or computer.
The app lets users control trap gates, and cameras from anywhere. When an animal is detected in the trap, an alert is sent to your cell phone that includes a photo of the intruders. Then, you simply send a command to close the trap and go on about your business. The app also allows users to check trap cameras at any time and have photos sent via message to cell phones.
In addition to capturing wild hogs, the trap can be used as a low-stress way to pen livestock or hard-to-corral animals. More information can be found at wirelesstraps.com.
If you’re participating in a hog abatement effort, either as a landowner or as a designated agent of a landowner, then you don’t need a hunting license to shoot wild hogs. But if you’re taking them for meat or recreational hunting, including trapping and other methods, you’ll need a valid hunting license.
Quick limits at Lake Mexia
TPWD biologists conducting fish population survey data on Lake Mexia report high numbers of quality channel catfish on the thousand-acre Central Texas lake.
Like other reservoirs in the area, Mexia has been plagued with drought conditions for several years, and much of the natural fish habitat, such as shoreline structure, aquatic vegetation, coves and points, has been dry for some time.
According to survey results, the 2012 channel catfish catch rate was the highest on record for the reservoir. Large numbers of fish in excellent condition were collected, and most of the channel catfish were in the two- to four-pound range.