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Swine Outlaws

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SWINE OUTLAWS



Any farmer or rancher in Texomaland can tell you about the damage caused by wild hogs to their crops and livestock. Agriculturally, wild hogs cost Texans $52 million dollars annually. This cost doesn’t include metropolitan damages. Wild hogs have been reported in downtown Dallas in the Trinity River flood plains and levees. In 1539, Hernando DeSoto first introduced them into Texas. The feral hog herds expanded when the LaSalle Expedition (1671-1673) brought more hogs to the Texas coast. Russian hogs, also called Eurasian hogs, first appeared in North Carolina in 1912. Texas hunting enthusiasts imported the Russian species for sport hunting in the 1930s. From then on, the wild hog numbers grew from domestic and hunting preserve escapees. The estimated population of wild pigs in Texas varies between 1.8 and 3.4 million; about half of the U.S. population (see population map at bottom). The average sow delivers five to six piglets per litter. She can produce two litters a year, and usually has her first litter at age 13 months, even though she experiences her first reproduction process between six and eight months of age.

Most wild hogs weigh between 100-200 pounds, but they can weigh up to 400 lbs with 5 inch tusks. Their colors differ from solid to spotted and brindled. Compared to domesticated pigs, wild hogs have a straight tail, a longer snout, more hair, smaller ears, longer and sharper tusks, higher shoulders, wider leg quarters, and are razor-backed.



Besides killing livestock and destroying crops by eating and trampling them, wild hogs generate even more environmental damage. They rub up against saplings and mature trees to scratch and mark their scents. Their heavy rubbing removes the tree’s bark layers and exposes the trees to insects and pathogens. They welter in, root through, and tromp on soil, and compact it so that their activity interrupts water infiltration and nutrient cycling. In lakes, streams, and rivers they degrade water quality by increasing silt and particle suspension, plus their feces increases fecal coliform concentration (microbiological contaminants) in the water, so that the water becomes unsafe for human consumption. Wild hogs also carry diseases and parasites.



This information comes directly from the Texas Parks and Wildlife’s website:


“Various diseases of wild hogs include pseudorabies (a swine herpes virus), swine brucellosis (an infectious, bacterial, reproductive disease), tuberculosis, bubonic plague, tularemia, hog cholera, foot and mouth disease, and anthrax. Internal parasites include kidney worms, stomach worms, round worms and whipworms. Liver flukes and trichinosis are also found in hogs. External parasites include dog ticks, fleas and hog lice.”



Texas permits hunters to kill wild hogs 12 months a year. In 2013 The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) created the 2013 County Hog Abatement Matching Program (CHAMP) in order to motivate counties to partner with other counties, businesses, non-profit associations, local governments, and landowners to raise money to reduce the feral hog population. Then, the TDA matches the money raised by the county partnerships. The deadline to apply for this grant is closed for 2016, but opens in late summer 2017.



Texoma ranchers and farmers set large traps with bait, hire wild hog trappers or hunters, and set up motion-activated cameras. Landowners can also legally snare and shoot the wild beasts. Wild hogs have super-tough hides, and most hunters use .243 or higher caliber rifles. Professional feral hog hunters own specially trained dogs and ATVs to carry hogs from the field. Landowners in Texas, their lessees or designated agents, don’t need hunting licenses to kill wild hogs on their property, and can keep live wild hogs for up to seven days. After that period, the landowner must contact the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) to inspect and approve the holding facilities. Hunters can legally move live feral hogs from the place of entrapment to a TAHC approved holding facility or an authorized hunting preserve.



Texas requires that hunters obtain a license to hunt wild hogs for sport or meat. Some hunters field-dress and ice the hogs down as quickly as possible. Others bring them back live and give them to people for food, sell them, or butcher them themselves. If the hunters leave their carcasses in the field, their carcasses become fodder for scavenger species and promote disease in that particular ecosystem.



If a wild hog hunt is successful, hunters can take their game to a meat/game processing company, like Fannin County’s Blue Bonnet Meat Company (bluebonnetmeatcompany.com). Co-owner Ben Buses explained that his company doesn’t process wild hog meat for commercial resale, that wild game in his processing capacity isn’t heavily regulated in TX, and meat processors in his line of business need only a County Retail License to handle wild game. Any wild game processed in his plant must be returned to the hunter, or the hunter can specify that the meat be given to an individual or family they know of who can use a little help with their food budget. Around 30% of Ben’s business comes from game hunters, with 20% of that being wild hog meat.



Meat processing companies authorized by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), who process wild hog meat for commercial purposes, buy their wild hog meat through hog buying stations. They supply restaurants and distribute it via foreign exports. Approximately 100 hog buying stations in Texas filter wild hogs from the field to these authorized meat processors. I spoke with Kenny Long, owner of Gainesville Wild Boar Buying Station in Gainesville, who was kind enough to give me the following information. Mr. Long began his career in the hog business in 1986 as a trapper and began buying hogs in 1997. He sells the hogs he traps to the Frontier Meat Company in Ft. Worth (www.frontiermeats.com), which has on-site USDA Meat Inspectors. Hog buying station owners buy wild hogs from trappers and trap wild hogs themselves.



The hog buyer makes his money when the hog reaches the processing plant, where the processor pays him by the pound. If the wild hogs become stressed out from the hunt, and are not properly housed and fed, they die very quickly. Hogs don’t sweat, so it is very important to their mortality that the hunter/trapper takes extraordinary care of them during the hunt, during transport to a holding facility, and at the holding facility. Frontier Meat Company processes about 300 wild hogs a week. Right now, the price of wild hog meat is low. A 200 pound hog that commanded $120.00 last year only pays $90.00 today. The wild hog trapper’s expenses include the price of corn for bait, the price of traps and the materials for the traps, fuel costs, and their time. It can take a whole day to find the signs wild hogs leave behind in their wanderings on a large ranch or farm. The trapper must identify their water source, trails, rooting activity, and tree rubbings, and only then will the trapper set his baited traps.



I spoke with Avery Kibbe, Texas helicopter pilot, and Rick Cantu, wildlife specialist for Hagarman National Wildlife Refuge (the Refuge). Kibbe Helicopters flew hunters to shoot wild hogs on the Refuge from the air in 2012. They killed between 175-200 hogs on that hunt. There is talk about another wild hog helicopter hunt at the Refuge, but they haven’t reached a definite date at this time.



Mr. Cantu explained that scheduling a wild hog hunt via helicopter incurs not only a large expense, but a needed coordination effort with the weather and visibility must take place, plus they have to close the Refuge to the public. The best times to stage a wild hog hunt using helicopters are in spring and fall. When the leaves are off of the trees, the improved visibility increases the accuracy of the hunter’s aim. Then, when those factors are determined, Mother Nature needs to cooperate. Mr. Cantu said the wild hog population has increased on the Refuge since 2012.



In 2011, the Smithsonian Magazine published John Morthland’s article, A Plague of Pigs in Texas, regarding the seriousness of the wild hog problem in Texas. He reported that wild hogs are among the most destructive invasive species in the U.S., and that few believe eradication is possible. Wild hogs threaten our local economies by cutting into rancher’s and farmer’s profits, and costing taxpayers millions of dollars a year, thereby preventing private monies from being turned over through our local businesses. Rural communities continue to fight the population explosion of wild hogs year-round, with no relief in sight. However, if you want to taste wild hog without going to all the trouble and expense of planning a hunt, you can order wild boar patties and roasts directly from the Frontier Meat Company.


 




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Wednesday

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Lake Texoma Fishing Report from TPWD (Dec. 13)

Water lightly stained; 47–51 degrees; 1.42’ high. Black bass are good on suspending jerkbaits, Senkos and shakyhead worms. Crappie are good on minnows and jigs. Striped bass are fair on slabs and minnows. Catfish are slow on trotlines and prepared bait.






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