They are trapped. They are shot. They are hit by vehicles. But nothing seems to slow the onslaught of wild pigs in Texas.
A popular target for hunters, wild pigs are at least a $60 million problem in Texas to farmers, homeowners and recreational facilities such as parks and ball fields, not counting the $7 million or more being spent on control.
Still found mostly in the South from Texas to the East Coast, wild pigs can be in 46 states, including Michigan to the north and large populations in California and Oregon to the west.
Because of the problems that come with wild pigs, research into controlling the animals is ongoing nationwide. Eradication, most experts believe, is out of the question, but controlling numbers to reduce damage and the threat of disease is possible with enough effort beyond the sport hunting element.
“There are some things we have been able to ground truth, and some research that has come out on traps,” said Dr. Billy Higginbotham, Texas AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist from Overton. “We have found that continuously catch doors don’t continuously catch. Once they trip, they trip and you are going to catch what you you have caught when the doors closed.”
The good news, he explained, is that instead of having a custom-made $300 saloon door gates made, a simple 4X8 piece of plywood that drops guillotine-style will do a better job.
“If you have two sounders come to the same feed site you can catch one on one end and one on the other end,” Higginbotham said of a technique using a figure 8 style trap that is basically two compartments back to back.
According to Higginbotham research has also shown that the wider the gate the better. He recommends using a full sheet, 48-inches wide for the gate.
“We have video evidence of sows going to narrow gates and not going in,” he explained.
“It is not uncommon if you have pigs on bait that you will have one sounder come at 10 p.m. and another coming at 3 a.m.,” Higginbotham said. He added that if the two sounders meet, one sow could end up chasing the other group away.
Research has also shown that while boars will come and go at feed while a sow and her piglets may linger longer than an hour.
The time it takes to train pigs to use a feed site depends on how much they are bothered. If contact is limited it can be achieved in about a week.
The first thing I would do when I see signs of damage is throw out bait and get a camera to see how many are in the sounder,” Higginbotham said. “If there are enough to trap I won’t use less than four panels and they have to be at least 5-foot high.”
Higginbotham said a year-long study on wild pig movement is just wrapping up. All 14 of the pigs that were collared have been recaptured and the GPS tracking information is being reviewed.
What is known is that half were recaptured in the trap they were initially collared. Two returned within four days. Most of the others were found within two miles of where they were first caught.
While the market for pigs 200 pounds and larger is holding at about 40 cents per pound with a per pig bonus, some may just want to kill the pigs and dispose of them onsite. While there has been discussion over the wisdom of killing a pig inside a trap, research again has shown that pigs can be back on a feed site within the week.
According to Texas Animal Health Commission statistics, about 470,000 wild pigs were taken to slaughter for human consumption in Texas between 2004-09.
Information on the latest trap designs is available online at http:feralhogs.tamu.edu. Displays are also available for view at Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center, 1710 N. FM 3053, Overton.