Central Texas county ups the bounty for feral hogs

Published: Feb. 24, 2022 at 1:10 AM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Feral hogs aren’t native to the Lone Star State, but they’re making themselves feel at home in counties across Central Texas--and causing millions of dollars in damage while they do it.

One local county is now offering an extra incentive to hunters in hopes of decreasing the feral hog population.

“We’re dealing with the most reproductively successful large mammal worldwide,” said Zach Davis, Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Hill County. “It can be a really, really big problem if nothing is done about it.”

Davis has been a county agent for 16 years: six in Hill County.

“We don’t have a county-by-county population rate or anything, but we’re certainly up there,” said Davis. “Our habitat that we have throughout the county lends itself to feral hogs, the row crop farming here also really lends itself to that, and so corn producers fight that battle every year.”

Adam Beseda grows corn, along with cotton, wheat and milo, and raises 100 head of cattle on his property in Mt. Calm.

The farmer and rancher has lived in Hill County his whole life and says he’s seen the feral hog problem explode.

“They’re extremely bold, they don’t care what they damage, they multiply extremely fast, I’ve seen more and more damage every year,” said Beseda. “Typically, I lose ten to fifteen acres of corn every year, it hits home when you have to leave that much product in the field.”

He says it’s not just the farmers who feel the impact.

“It’s not just from us, but it’s the actual end consumer that loses that, and so what you see, you see inflation from that,” said Beseda. “It’s harder and harder on farmers just because of the simple fact that there’s not very many ways that we have the ability to fight this invasive species, so one of the big things that we have to do, we have to get out here and hunt them ourselves, it’s us burning both ends of the candle, day and night.”

Beseda has joined a team of like-minded hunters dedicated to protecting their property.

”With innovations over time, we’re now able to switch from daytime hunting to now mainly nighttime hunting, which has given us the best opportunity to take out as many of these animals as possible,” said Beseda.

Between thermal drones and scopes, specialized rifles, ammunition and other equipment, Beseda says he’s spent tens of thousands of dollars protecting his livelihood.

“I’ve had them come after me, we have them go after the cows all the time, we’ve killed animals that have had teeth over three inches long,” said Beseda. “Even if we can kill 70 percent from a group, that only maintains the population.”

In an effort to help property owners like Beseda, Hill County started a bounty program in 2014.

Davis says around 10,000 tails have been turned in since the program’s inception.

“I would say it’s a big problem and has the potential to be a crazy big problem,” said Davis. “We typically don’t think of feral hogs, or hogs in general, as predators, but when there’s documented predation on fawns, kids and lambs, and probably at some point pets and so forth, then that brings it home to show how big the issue is.”

The problem has gotten so big, and to compete with nearby counties, Hill is now doubling the bounty for feral hog tails from $5 to $10 per tail.

“It’s an opportunity to try to have a coordinated effort and get neighbors working together to try to mitigate the issue that we’re dealing with,” said Davis.

However, to cash-in on the bounty, prospective program participants are required to attend a free, one-hour class on feral hog management.

“We’re offering landowners some ideas of things they can do to abate some of these hogs,” said Davis. “It’s a way to help with the control of the hog population and offer our citizens a way to be involved in a local issue here in Hill County.”

Davis says 99 percent of Texas counties have feral hog populations (every county except El Paso).

“There’s an estimated four to five million feral hogs in the U.S., and 2.6 million live in Texas,” said Davis. “When you think about the destruction they can cause, we’re looking at somewhere around $52 million in ag damage alone, statewide.”

The figure is actually much higher because it doesn’t include damage done to landscaping, golf courses or other sport fields, Davis says.

However, the damage isn’t just monetary: experts say feral hogs can damage the health of animals and humans.

”There’s livestock issues, there’s human health concerns with disease transmission to livestock and humans as well,” said Davis. “There’s several zoonotic diseases that can be transferred.”

Hogs were originally brought over in the 1500s by settlers, and the Eurasian boar escaped sometime in the 1930s, Davis said.

“Now what we deal with is a hybrid of those two,” said Davis. “According to State of Texas, they are free-ranging livestock, and so they belong to the landowner on whoever property they’re on.”

But the landowners don’t want them, Beseda says.

”They carry up to 23 different diseases to include the Bubonic Plague,” said Beseda.

While the bounty won’t make up the losses he’s suffered in crops or the money he’s spent hunting them, Beseda says it helps, and he hopes it motivates others to join the fight.

“I think the $10 bounty will encourage several hunters in the area, and even more than just the hunters in the area, but the farmers themselves, to actually take part in this bounty,” said Beseda. -”Give me a call, I’m part of a group of individuals that’s extremely passionate about the eradication of these animals and doing everything I can to protect my properties, and the properties around me.”

Beseda can be reached at (254) 749-3420.

Anyone interested in participating in the bounty program can sign up during the required, one-hour feral hog management class at the Hill County Fairgrounds, 1180 S Waco St. in Hillsboro, on March 1 and March 3 at 6 p.m.

The class is free.

Call (254) 582-4022 for more information on the class and program.

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