Author: Brandon Mulder, Austin Community Newspapers Staff
Published: June 01, 2018
For nearly six years Bastrop County’s feral hog abatement program, or the “county bounty,” has been paying landowners and hunters $5 for every hog tail submitted to a county check station.
To date, that program has paid out $120,000 in state funding for the extermination of 21,725 hogs, according to county records, though it’s unclear if the program is keeping pace with the hogs’ reproduction rate.
Last week, the Bastrop County Commissioners Court approved an agreement with the AgriLife Extension Service that refunds the county $12,000 for the bounty program. The county’s pool of funds was depleted by mid-March, and approval of the $12,000 refund in next year’s budget would replenish the bounty program beginning in October, when the fiscal year starts.
Over the last few decades, the proliferation of pigs has cost the state’s agriculture industry millions of dollars, enough to compel Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller to wage a “feral hog apocalypse.”The state has estimated that about 2.5 million hogs live in 230 of Texas’ 254 counties and cause an estimated $52 million in damages a year.
Bastrop County is no exception. The problem has been getting worse every year, said Kellis Berdoll, who owns a pecan orchard near Cedar Creek. He and his son Lance were forced to build a fence around their 400-acre orchard — a $50,000 expense in materials alone.
“That’s all we could figure out to do,” he said. “It was terrible.”
“When I was a kid — I’m almost 78 years old — we didn’t have wild hogs. But I have to say, in the last 10 years they’ve been getting thicker and thicker,” Berdoll said.
The ripped-up earth the hogs wrought on his orchard would leave dirt mounds and holes a foot deep, enough to “shake you out of your seat” when driving over them. And come fall, when his pecan trees are producing, the hogs would “eat every one that hits the ground.”
Since 2008, the Texas Wildlife Services has initiated abatement programs, both through funding county bounties and funding state experts to remove the swine from specific properties.
“It has helped somewhat with damages that landowners incur, but there is still a large population of hogs out there,” Bastrop County’s Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agent Rachel Bauer said.
“They’re all over. You’re very lucky if you haven’t had damage caused by them,” she said.
This year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will begin field testing poison baits that can kill the swine within 90 minutes of consumption. The tests began in West Texas near the beginning of the year, and will continue in Alabama this summer.
Researchers are designing the sodium nitrate-based poison to target pigs without harming other wildlife or the scavengers that pick through a pig’s corpse.
A similar but more environmentally destructive Warfarin-based poison was approved last year by Miller, but it was blocked by the Texas Legislature after passing a bill that required further research before using the lethal poison in the wild. The poison, Kaput Feral Hog Bait, drew wide criticisms from hunters, environmentalists and meat-processing plants after Miller began pushing for its use.
That poison was determined to be far more detrimental to other wildlife, domesticated animals or anything that might consume the contaminated hog meat.
Check out the story from the Statesman for more information.
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