IRVING (AP) – Some Texas cities are going to the hogs.
Neighbors in a Dallas suburb have certainly felt that way since seeing their well-manicured lawns uprooted and sprinkler systems destroyed by packs of hefty feral hogs — beasts that once caused problems mainly for Texas farmers and ranchers.
“I think people expect this to be a rural problem,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said Thursday in Irving, where the city has captured nearly 250 feral hogs since October when they first were discovered roaming around. “This shows that in rural and urban Texas … the lines that divide us are fewer and fewer.”
Arlington and Dallas are among cities along the Trinity River that also have reported problems with wild hogs that weigh several hundred pounds, Staples said.
Feral Hog expert Billy Higginbotham from Texas A&M University on 1080 KRLD
Wildlife officials say the hogs are now starting to plague urban areas because of changing habitats and prolific reproduction. Texas has up to 2 million of the hairy beasts, about half the nation’s population, and state officials say they cause about $400 million in damage each year.
Although not all feral hogs have tusks, for years the animals have been a menace in rural areas by shredding cornfields, eating calves and damaging fruit trees — even breaking through barbed-wire fences, said Texas Farm Bureau spokesman Gene Hall. They also wreck ecosystems by wallowing in riverbeds and streams.
“They can do more damage than a bulldozer,” Hall said.
Methods to stop the problem have failed, including a pig birth-control pill studied by a veterinarian and researcher. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering allowing hunters in helicopters to shoot wild hogs at a wildlife refuge in Central Texas, saying they keep destroying the habitat.
Arlington has been aware of feral hogs in its community for about four years, said Ray Rentschler, field supervisor for Arlington’s Animal Services. But the city didn’t start trapping them until two years ago, when they started roaming into parks and frightening joggers and nearby homeowners.
“When you’ve got a herd of 300-pound pigs in your neighborhood, it tends to makes people feel nervous,” Rentschler said Thursday. “We want our citizens to feel safe.”
The city has trapped about 30 hogs, although Rentschler said he believes many more are roaming parts of the city. Captured pigs are humanely euthanized, he said.
In Irving, residents in a neighborhood near a park were alarmed last fall when they found their yards unearthed by what appeared to have been a bulldozer. Residents first suspected vandals until someone saw animal tracks, and one neighbor later spotted a pack of hogs trotting down the street on another night.
“You never think of a pig doing the extent of the damage that was done,” said Sharie La Vail, whose yard was among the hardest hit.
Irving then started trapping the animals — the largest weighing in at 375 pounds. Irving, which contracts with a wildlife services company to control its hog problem, then takes the hogs to a meat processing company.
Although city officials believe the problem is under control and residents have not seen a hog for months, some in Irving remain on the lookout.
“If you do wake up at night, you look out the window, because you just don’t know,” La Vail said. “I think they outnumber us.”
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