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County wins Hog Out Month

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Posted: Thursday, February 17, 2011 5:00 am

October was Hog Out Month and Pecos County went hog wild.

The county recorded the highest cumulative score and largest contiguous tract of land among Texas counties participating in the initiative to help reduce the population of feral hogs.

According to Hoppy Turman, district supervisor for the Texas Wildlife Services Program, 371 feral hogs were killed in the county during October as part of Hog Out Month. Turman said that’s about 200 more than are killed in a typical month.

And the county had about 2 million contiguous acres in the program. The acreage was is larger than some counties in Texas and a disbelieving state official actually called to confirm the number, Turman said.

The efforts as the top feral hog eliminator in the state will earn the county a $25,000 grant, which was announced in a Feb. 1 letter from Commissioner Todd Staples of the Texas Department of Agriculture.

“Thank you for your efforts throughout the year to combat these depredating animals and the devastating effect they have on all Texans,” Staples wrote in the announcement letter. “Through this initiative, you have become part of a multi-county, coordinated effort across the Lone Star State to eradicate wild hogs ... “

To compete in the initiative, counties had to document three things — the number of hogs killed in the county, the number of outreach events or people instructed and the number of contiguous acres made available by landowners for the program.

Last year was the program’s first year and awareness efforts included Texas A&M’s nonconference football game with the Arkansas Razorbacks. The program also includes local public education forums and the commitment of acreage to the feral hog abatement program, according to Staples.

According to a Department of Agriculture release, Texas has nearly 2 million feral hogs, the largest number of any state. And their numbers are increasing due to large litters and a dearth of natural predators.

The Department of agriculture estimates feral hogs cause about $400 million per year in economic damages, including livestock, crops, pastures, fences, ponds, even roads.

Turman said locally feral hogs have caused damage to alfalfa fields, watermelon crops and they even have a taste for green chiles. Not fussy eaters, they’re also not vegetarians — Turman said they’ve also killed baby goats in the county.

“They’re omniverous,” he said. “They’re always in groups and they know how to work together.”

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, feral hogs are the descendants of domesticated hogs that either escaped or were released into the wild — the first swine were probably introduced to what is now Texas by the Spanish about 300 years ago.
In the 1930s, Russian boars and European wild hogs were introduced into the state for hunting purposes. Many of them escaped and began breeding with feral hogs and TPWD believes few, if any, European wild hogs remain in Texas.
In addition to the economic damage they do, feral hogs are also known carriers of diseases such as pseudorabies, swine brucellosis, tuberculosis, bubonic plague, tularemia, trichinosis and anthrax.

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