Hunting feral hogs in East Texas

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TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Feral hogs have been a problem for years across East Texas and the entire nation. They destroy crops and properties causing millions of dollars in damage.

“This is our most recent hog damage,” says Ilene Finklestein, who lives in Troup. “The grass is completely turned over. It’s muddy. They uproot everything.”

Finkelstein moved to a ranch near Troup to enjoy retirement and spend time with her horses. 

“I love riding horses. I live for my horses,” she explains.

She never imagined finding herself in the middle of a never ending war against these wild pigs. 

“This is extremely frustrating,” Finklestein says. “I know as soon as I get out here and fix it, they will be back in the next day or two and root up that exact same spot. It’ll be much worse the second time around.” 

According to Texas A&M research, there are about 2.6 million wild pigs in Texas and up to 9 million in the United States. Feral hogs cause $52 million dollars in property damage every year in Texas and about $1.5 billion dollars nationwide.

Recently, dozens of landowners from all over East Texas got together in Atlanta, Texas (Cass County) for a Wild Pig Management Program. 

“People are very frustrated,” says Jessica Rymel, Cass County Extension Agent. “The conventional methods of using a box trap are not effective anymore. Wild hogs are really intelligent animals and they are adaptable, which is what has enabled them to become so widespread.”

One sow can have up to three litters in 14 months and will give birth to from one to a dozen piglets. Ken Hale from Henderson has become an expert on wild hogs. He says we must eliminate 70 percent of their population each year to not lose ground. 

“Feral hogs are truly the agricultural plague of this century,” says Hale, owner of Boatcycle in Henderson. “Obviously, what we have been doing, with the population doubling every five years, it’s not working.”

There are ways to eliminate them by hunting, using snares and box traps. 

Every morning, Mark Gibson hooks his trailer to his truck and checks his hog traps. He has been trapping hogs for 34 years in Rusk County. He has caught over 12,000 of them.

“The problem is getting worse and worse,” says Gibson, a Henderson native. “We can’t control them. There are not enough trappers like me out in the woods.”

Gibson says hogs can get smart after three trappings to know if there is danger. He recommends people to get traps without wire bottoms, cover them with cedar brush and constantly move them.

“The hogs get sensitive enough to know there is danger there even though I have it brushed up with no wire bottom in the trap. I have to move it,” he explains.

Gibson also says you should try to cover up your scent. 

“I walk up here with rubber boots on. I wear gloves all the time without touching the corn. I wash my clothes with non-scented soap,” he adds.

Square traps can only catch a certain amount of hogs, which is why some experts are pushing a new kind of trap. 

“A sounder can be five, 20 or 30 hogs,” Hale says. “What do we usually see caught in a box trap? One or two hogs.” 

Researchers are pushing corral traps and another one called the BoarBuster. 

“Within the last two years, we have trapped over 300 hogs with the BoarBuster,” Finklestein says.  

The BoarBuster is a large circular trap capable of capturing an entire sounder. The trap comes with a camera that sends a notification to the owners phone when activity is detected. The user can then open the app to see a live look at the scene of the trap. Then, the owner can disable the safety and drop the trap with the click of a button. 

Research shows corral traps catch up to half of the hogs around it, but there are drawbacks.

“Sometimes it’s hard to put out in the woods,” Gibson says. “You have to put it in an open area because it’s so big, and it’s hard to move.”

Another part of this story is what to do with the captured hogs. There’s a big demand for feral hog meat in Europe, making it a profitable export for Texas businesses. 

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