Editorial Note: Experience Life staff writer Maggie Fazeli Fard was recently in Southwest Texas reporting on the proliferation of wild hogs in the state, their destructive environmental impact, and efforts to manage their numbers — primarily through organized, unlimited hog hunts. The hunts attract experienced hunters, as well as novices with an interest in local food sourcing and the “ranch-to-table” experience. Maggie is sharing some of her reporting through the “Field Notes” series this week. Check out Part One here, and find Part II below.
Newspapers have called it an “aporkalypse” — a porcine plague in the Lone Star State. Wild hogs are wreaking havoc in Texas, cratering fields, digging up soil, exposing tree roots, stripping grasses, destroying the habitats of other wildlife, and even harassing tourists in parks.
It’s estimated that there are at least 1.5 and as many as 3.5 million wild hogs in Texas, about half of the total estimated number of wild hogs in the United States. The feral omnivores — which can adapt to nearly any habitat and will eat just about anything — can be found in about 40 states nationwide. In Texas, they’re in nearly every county and have found their way from rural areas to the suburbs and are closing in on major cities, with reports of trail and park damage in Dallas, Fort Worth, and other urban areas.
The damage is not limited to the environment: A tussle between an aggressive, sharp-tusked hog and another animal, such as a dog, or an unarmed human will almost surely end badly.
Legislative officials and wildlife managers generally agree that wild hogs — like coyotes — can’t be eradicated, but they can be controlled. As a result, year-round hunting and trapping is permitted, and there is no limit on the number, gender, or age of hogs allowed to be hunted.
Here are some more feral hog facts from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department:
- Modern wild hogs are descendants of hogs brought to Texas by Spanish explorers about 300 years ago and European wild hogs — “Russian boars” — that were brought to Texas in the 1930s for sport hunting.
- An adult hog can grow to 100 to 400 pounds.
- Hogs have four continuously growing tusks, and contact between the two in the upper jaw and two in the lower jaw causes a continuous sharpening of the bottom set.
- Wild hogs have no natural predators.
- Sows, or female hogs, begin breeding when they reach 6 to 8 months old. They have two litters of between four and 12 piglets every 12 to 15 months.
- The average lifespan of a hog is four to eight years.
- Feral hogs generally travel in family groups called sounders, comprised normally of two sows and their young. Mature boars are usually solitary, only joining a herd to breed.
- Wild hogs are considered “opportunistic omnivores,” and may prey on fawns, young lambs, and kid goats. They may also eat eggs of ground nesting birds, such as turkeys and quail.
- In Texas, the hogs do about $400 million in damage each year. Nationwide, that number is estimated to exceed $1 billion annually.
- In Texas, about 750,000 wild hogs are killed each year.
- There have been reports of hogs colliding with cars and cyclists, and harassing visitors at parks.
- Just like domesticated pigs found on farms, the slaughtered hogs are edible and prized for their meat. Because of the animals’ activity and muscularity, wild hog meat tends to be leaner than pasture- or pen-raised pork.