Saturday, August 28, 2021

Feral Hogs Are Tearing Up Texas

Tourists Are Shooting Them from Helicopters.

Feral hogs are one of the most destructive invasive species in the U.S.

But to Texans, feral hogs are nothing new — and they’re no joke.

"The problem is extremely serious," said Olivia Johnson, co-owner and business manager of helicopter outfit Cedar Ridge Aviation in Knox City, Texas. "It would be like if you woke up and there was 3 million rats living in your house. You wouldn't live with them. You wouldn't just say, ‘Oh, well, welcome to my home.'"

The hogs are a menace to the environment and agriculture alike, and cause roughly $1.5 billion in damage each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They tear up crops and property, eat endangered species, and spread diseases to livestock and humans. The USDA estimates there are about 6 million hogs across the U.S., but some experts put the number closer to 9 million.

Roughly half of the hogs live in Texas, where people can't kill them quickly enough to manage the population. So in 2011, the state made it legal for helicopter companies to take anyone — even tourists — hunting from the sky.

"Helicopter hunting is the quickest way to kill a bunch of pigs," Dustin Johnson, an owner and pilot at Cedar Ridge Aviation, said.

Now, companies sell seats to thrill-seeking tourists for as much as $5,000 per person. Cedar Ridge charges about half that, hosting guests from as far as Australia and China.

On the day VICE News visited, two hunters from Amarillo, Texas, killed 54 pigs in one go. Overall, helicopter hunting killed 43,000 pigs in the state last year, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. That’s only about 1-2% of Texas’s hog population.

Dustin Johnson acknowledges that some object to killing dozens of pigs from helicopters, and says those people have never fought the pig problem in Texas. But Bubba Ortiz, a hog trapper in New Braunfels, Texas, isn"t a fan of their approach.

"I'd prefer to take them alive than dead, because when they're dead, I want to do something with the meat," said Ortiz, a Pueblo Nation member with Tigua and Acoma Sky City heritage. He sends hogs to certified hunting ranches or to meat processors for shipment overseas, where wild boar is a more popular menu item.

Ortiz said he trapped 417 hogs within the city limits of San Antonio in 2017, and another 300 in the county.  "I don't hate the pigs," Ortiz said. "I'm not a big fan of the pigs cause they're just so destructive. But I look at them like a good adversary."

-- end of the article related to the video.

I've written about the huge problems created by feral hogs. Besides killing family pets and attacking people, they are negatively impacting agriculture throughout the South. Of course, Texas and Louisiana are being hit especially hard. And while feral hogs thrive in almost any condition, climate, or ecosystem, they do especially well in those states. 

Feral hogs are a menace. And since they are considered opportunistic omnivores, they will eat anything when given the chance to do so. Of course, since they can root as deep as three feet, they destroy agricultural fields of every produce including potatoes, rice, wheat, soybeans, sorghum, melons, and others. They even destroy sod farms, hayfields, and cornfields. According to sources, "farmers planting corn have discovered that hogs will go methodically down the rows during the night, extracting seeds one by one."

Because they are intelligent, they evade traps and hunters. And since they have no natural predators, their numbers are exploding. Sows breed at 6 to 8 months of age and have two litters of four to eight piglets every 12 to 15 months during a life span of 4 to 8 years. A litter of a dozen is not unheard of. 

This all means killing them can be an expensive and full-time job that takes vital funds and time away from the arduous task of farming. And here's more, it should be noted that while feral hogs are costing farmers immense amounts of money to stay in business, livestock producers are also adversely affected since feral hogs attack livestock as well. 

They need to be eradicated.

Tom Correa

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