Texas

Available tools that Texans can use to control the feral pig population

By Jessica Domel
multimedia reporter

Texans have several options when it comes to controlling the ever-growing population of wild boar or feral pigs, but some methods, including the use of some toxins, remain simply unattainable.

There are an estimated 6.9 million wild boar in the United States. About 2.6 million of them live in Texas.

They raid newly planted fields, destroy acres of overnight crops, tear down pastures, kill trees, spread invasive plant species, contaminate watersheds, kill small livestock, destroy wildlife habitat, and have even vandalized cemeteries and knocked over headstones.

“It’s a nationwide problem. It’s not just an agricultural issue,” said Zach Davis, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service representative for Hill County. “It permeates every aspect of life from our watersheds — the nuisances we may have there — to our neighborhoods and transportation.”

Wild boars are extremely intelligent, which can make them difficult to capture and kill.

This is one of the reasons Davis recommends landowners use more than one method to control feral pig populations.

“It’s taking an integrated approach,” Davis said in an interview with the Texas Farm Bureau Radio Network. “You can’t just catch them. You can’t just shoot them. You have to do one and the other, and maybe even the other, to gain any kind of control.”

Wild boar are opportunistic omnivores. They will eat almost anything, including wildlife supplements.

Landowners may want to consider a fence around feeders to deter the pigs.

Davis recommends a fence 28 to 33 inches high, but he said it’s just a deterrent. Wild boars have and can find a way over, through or under fences to get food.

Traps are also an option and there are several types including the corral trap, cage traps and snares.

Landowners should consider the cost, affordability if other wildlife or livestock can be excluded, and the size of the boar probes in the area.

Davis urges those using traps to consider other nearby food sources when setting a trap. If there has been a strong acorn harvest this year, wild boar may be more attracted to it than to the bait.

Hunting is also an option.

“Hunting can be effective in terms of pressure. We could push them out of an area with shots, but mostly in terms of control, we’re going to take a limited number at a time,” Davis said. “The greatest effectiveness we are offered is to force them out of an area.”

A hunting license is not required in Texas to target wild boar.

“What I recommend, however, is to consider the situation and potentially wildlife season when deciding whether or not you need a license,” Davis said.

He also recommends informing the local game warden if you plan to hunt wild boar at night in case they get calls about gunshots.

In Texas, hunting from a helicopter or hot air balloon is legal but requires permits and licenses.

Hunters should also speak to the helicopter or balloon service prior to the hunt to ensure their objectives for the hunt align with the hunter’s.

There are a few chemical control options, but only one is currently available in Texas.

“There are toxins that have been field tested and others that are being field tested,” Davis said. “Sodium nitrite completed field trial evaluation in 2021. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is currently evaluating the options of a label based on this data.”

Sodium nitrite starves red blood cells for oxygen. Wild boar fed with a bait fall asleep and do not wake up again.

Another option is the anticoagulant warfarin.

Wild boar that consume warfarin-containing bait essentially bleed to death.

The EPA approved a label for warfarin, but there is currently no label for its use in Texas.

“Summer of 2023 will see Texas A&M AgriLife Extension testing Warfarin and working to see where that fits into the game,” Davis said.

Contraceptives are currently the only option available to Texans.

They inhibit pig reproduction without lethal control.

The only problem is that this option relies on the pigs consuming the contraceptive regularly.

There are several options for boar birth control, but Davis said there is a lack of evidence on their effectiveness.

When considering options, officials, landowners, and hunters must consider the impact of those options on other species, the public, their safety, whether humane or not, the cost, and their effectiveness.

It is up to landowners when and if they use any of these methods to control wild boar.

Those who choose to hunt, capture, or chemically control them should begin the planning process at the first sign of wild boar on their property.

“Ideally it would be when you see them and you don’t want them. Either apply pressure to go ahead and expel them, or remove them permanently,” Davis said. “I think there are many instances where people have wild boars but don’t know because they haven’t seen them.”

According to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, signs of feral pigs in the area can include: extensive digging or burrowing, muddy wallows, tree barns, tunnels and trails through thick vegetation, hoof marks near water sources and droppings.

Wild boar can reproduce every three months, three weeks and three days. They can breed as early as six months old and have up to 12 piglets per year.

“You are a big problem. They cause millions and millions of dollars worth of damage,” Davis said. “Ninety-nine percent of Texas counties have a wild boar population.”

The only county that does not have a known wild boar population is El Paso County.

Researchers aren’t sure why the wild boar haven’t left an imprint there yet.

To help landowners deal with the feral hog problem, AgriLife has a website with trap design information here: feralhogs.tamu.edu and here: bit.ly/FeralHogControl.

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