Hagerman Wildlife Refuge battling growing hog problem

By: Steven Powell Email
By: Steven Powell Email

POTTSBORO, TX -- At Hagerman Wildlife Refuge, officials say the feral hog problem is only getting worse.

Fields alongside Refuge Road have been destroyed by hogs in the past few weeks.

Rick Cantu, refuge operation specialist, said the hogs get more aggressive during the late fall.

"You'll notice that in the past week or so that acorns are starting to fall off oak trees. And when that happens, it's a feast. It's a smorgasbord for these hogs and these pigs," he said.

They're pillaging the fields trying to get seeds from the ground, he said.

"You can show up there, and you'll have an area that is pristine, it's ideal. And the next day you show up and it's torn up like you ran your disk through it with a tractor," Cantu said.

The pests are also affecting their farms.

"We go in and plant food plots and fields for water fowl and resident wildlife - and the hogs will come in right behind us," he said.

Saul Petty, invasive species biologist, said it's a daily battle just trying to keep them at bay.

"Our law enforcement guys do shoot the hogs when they come across when they're out on patrol and things like that. But for the most part we catch them in large numbers through the trap," he said.

A couple of months ago officials caught 44 hogs in one day in a single trap - a new record for the refuge. And officials said the past few years they've taken out as many as 600 hogs per year.

"The limiting factor here on the refuge is just man power. We just don't have the people to run as many traps as we would like to," Petty said.

But Cantu said fighting a war of attrition is a still a catch-22.

"The survivors are in much better shape because they have less competition. You have just made those hogs that much healthier," he said.

Cantu doesn't think they'll ever eradicate the population. But they're doing everything they can to keep the damage to the refuge at a minimum.

"This habitat is ideal for these hogs. And as a result their population just continues to expand," he said.

The refuge has it's first of three deer hunts this weekend. And they're encouraging hunters to kill as many hogs as possible.

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