Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples has announced Hardeman County as the winner of the 2011statewide ‘Hog Out Challenge’. The challenge awards grants to the five Texas counties that remove the most feral hogs. The 2011 competition resulted in the removal of 12,632 feral hogs.

According to USDA estimates, over 4 million feral pigs are present in at least 39 U.S. states with the largest populations located in Texas, California, Florida, Hawaii and Louisiana. In addition, feral pigs are now found in two counties in Iowa—America’s #1 swine-producing state.

An estimated 2.6 million feral hogs cause an estimated $500 million in damage to rural and urban areas of Texas each year, according to state authorities. Some estimates of feral hog damage nationwide approach $1.5 billion per year.

Feral hogs, which can grow to more than 400 pounds, destroy farmland, infect humans and livestock with disease, and compete with other wildlife for food. As numbers of feral swine escalate, they are seen increasingly in urban areas.

Feral swine not only are destructive, they also pose a threat to domestic swine. Wild pigs are susceptible to several serious swine diseases which can be transmitted to the nation’s domestic swine herd including swine brucellosis, pseudorabies, classical swine fever and African swine fever.

African swine fever—a major foreign animal disease—has never been found in the United States. The USDA eradicated classical swine fever (formerly known as hog cholera) from this country in 1976. Although swine brucellosis and pseudorabies have been eliminated from U.S. commercial-production swine herds, hunters and farmers need to be aware that wild pigs may be infected with these diseases and can readily transmit them to domestic pigs.

The destructive animals have been known to tear through livestock fences and consume animal feed, minerals, and protein supplements. Not only do wild pigs feast on field crops such as corn, milo, rice, watermelon, peanuts, hay, turf and wheat, but they are also efficient predators and—when given the opportunity—will prey upon young livestock and other small animals.

The feral swine population that exists today is a combination of domestic, escaped, or neglected domestic swine.

“I have put feral hogs on the Texas Most Wanted List,” Staples said. “We need to track down these destructive pests and eliminate them. Not only are feral hogs a costly nuisance to agricultural operations and wildlife habitats, but they are a serious threat to the traveling public and are increasingly finding their way into urban areas and destroying residents’ yards, public parks, golf courses and more.”

The winning 2011 Hog Out Challenge counties – Hardeman, Clay, Lavaca, Callahan and Goliad – will share a total of $60,000 to continue their feral hog eradication efforts. As the 2011 Hog Out Challenge winner, Hardeman County will receive $20,000 to help fund ongoing feral hog abatement initiatives.

“Feral hogs have become a major problem in Hardeman County over the last 15 years,” said Hardeman County Extension Agent Steven Sparkman. “These pests have made it almost impossible to grow peanuts or grain sorghum, and they’ve also disrupted our cattle industry by destroying hay and crops. We intend to use the TDA grant to educate producers and trappers about different techniques available to continue improving our eradication efforts.”

Throughout the year, TDA works with the Wildlife Services branch of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, which removes thousands of hogs annually through various feral hog abatement strategies. The effort results in an estimated savings of more than $4 million to Texas landowners. 

Swine were first introduced to the United States in 1539, when Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto brought them to Florida. Wild pigs are not native to the United States and should not be confused with the collared peccary (javelina) of the Southwest.

Source: Texas Department of Agriculture, USDA