Wild hog menace needs some answers

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Take a drive around Lindale and/or East Texas pretty much anytime and you are apt to see examples of a long-time scourge in the area -- wild hogs.

They can be seen grazing on the side of the road or belly up on the shoulder.

Most of my driving is done in the day and even though these bristle-backed porcine are nocturnal, they will still show their ugly snouts when the sun is shining.

Just a few days ago, while driving along Interstate 20 not far from Lindale, I noticed another dead-as-a-hammer wild hog on the shoulder.

In my travels around the region, I’ve seen them in packs along Highway 69 near Tyler, rooting around pastures in deep East Texas and ironically enough, along Jim Hogg Road in the late afternoon, which was especially interesting because a sow and a few of her piglets were lolling in the middle of the road, totally oblivious to traffic or the drivers who had stopped trying to shoo them off into the ditch.

This close encounter brought home a couple of facts as to why wild hogs are such a menace: they are completely unconcerned about contact with humans and they reproduce at a ridiculous rate.

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, wild pigs can produce two litters a year with three to eight piglets in each litter.

And since nearly 80 percent of the land in Texas is conducive to wild hogs, the numbers add up to an off-putting fact: unless a suitable and long-term control is found, the wild hog menace will be around for a long, long time.

Of course the bad part of having such an indestructible critter in our midst isn’t simply seeing dead ones or having them mill around highways and back roads. It’s the almost ridiculous amount of damage they do.

In economic terms, they are justifiably detested by land owners because they compete with livestock -- as well as game and non-game species -- for food. Yet more than any other reason, it’s because of the damage their rooting does to habitat and agricultural commodities.

These pesky porkers aren’t shy about where they root, either.

A couple of years ago, Lindale resident Bill Hamby -- who lives near downtown -- called and told me about the damage they inflicted on his front yard. (This is reflected in the photo accompanying this story).

Officials at Lindale City Hall are sympathetic with residents affected by these hogs, but City Manager Carolyn Caldwell noted it’s a particularly vexing situation.

“We have problems every year regarding these wild hogs,’’ she said. “Unfortunately, there isn’t much the city can do. The traps are huge and aren’t really safe to set in the environment where there are children around. We aren’t equipped to handle any wild animals, not just wild hogs.’’

While an Old West solution remains – the tried and true “lead poison’’ treatment – shooting these marauders only puts a small dent in the overall population.

However, recently I came across a story from Art Young, editor of “The Outpost’’ magazine. He offers a few sensible ideas on how to reduce the wild hog population in the state, which now numbers more than 2 million.

He suggests using the more than capable people with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department because in the final analysis, wild hogs are a game animal.

The TP&WD has biological and public policy experts who can come up with a budget and a sustainable program to make eradication efforts feasible in the long term. In other words, let the people who know how to manage game species in Texas do their job. This doesn’t include using Warfarin, or Coumadin, a blood thinner that could contaminate the meat.

A sustainable demand for the meat, which is more like red meat than farm-raised pork, should be pursued, Young says.

I’ve eaten wild hog and it’s lean and very tasty. Not at all like what you’d think would come from such a hideous looking creature. The meat needs to be cooked for a long time, much like a brisket or bigger cuts of store bought pork. Slaughterhouses will pay upwards of $150 to $180 for the pigs, which can either go to human consumption or as pet food.

There isn’t a specific season or bag limit on the hogs, but hunters still need a license. Young suggests making it easier for out-of-state hunters by charging a $10 fee, good for three days, and let them take out as many as they can carry home.

A win for the state coffers, a win for hunters with nothing to do in the off seasons and a win for the hunters’ freezer. Only loser in this scenario is the hog, which is a good thing.

East Texas hunters can literally trip over them but out of state hunters need a database for where to find these critters.

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