Thanks to an exceptionally wet year wild hogs are flourishing.
Erath County Trapper Ronald Rhoades said more piglets per litter have survived this year due to lush vegetation providing cover from predators such as bobcats and coyotes.
In the summer of 2006, the feral hogs were on the move searching for water, Rhoades said.
Rhoades said hogs are extremely sensitive to heat because they don't sweat and can overheat and die in a short amount of time without water.
“They're not having to travel like last summer for water sources,” Rhoades said. “And food sources are plentiful.”
Rhoades said he has trapped approximately 200 animals this year.
But, that's not many, when one considers statewide estimates go as high as 4 million. Rhoades said nobody really knows for sure how many are out there, but without a doubt the critters outnumber the deer population. He said he's not sure anything can be done about the thousands roaming freely around the countryside.
“They're so far ahead of us, I don't know what we can do at this point,” Rhoades said.
Rhoades said when he first became the trapper for Erath County in 1992 the hogs weren't here. In a relatively short amount of time (by 1994) the hog population increased dramatically.
Since the early 1990s Rhoades has trapped more than 6,000 hogs, which is hardly a dent in the population.
Rhoades uses live traps baited with soured corn to lure the animals inside. Then, in the winter, he usually switches to straight corn after the animals become accustomed to eating it out of the deer feeders.
This year, he said, the animals are not going to the deer feeders because all of the moisture has made acorns so plentiful they don't need to.
The hogs are very destructive and can root up a coastal field to the point that it's impossible to bale until the holes can be filled in. Rhoades said he has also seen hogs eat seeds sown by farmers as soon as they are put in the ground.
He said the hogs cause thousands of dollars worth of destruction in crop depredation, destroying fences, and damaging general property.
Rhoades said in the late 80s domestic hog prices dropped significantly and many ranchers and farmers bought trailers full of the animals for virtually nothing. Then they turned them out to hunt as a way to generate income, not realizing the problems they were creating.
Because the gestation period for a hog is only three months, three weeks and three days - a litter of piglets is on the ground quickly. Normally, a sow will have two litters per year, but can have as many as three per year, Rhoades said.
The animals roam and feed at night in groups called sounders and normally are not seen during daylight hours unless it's really hot and they need to wallow in water and mud to cool off. The sounders in Erath County range anywhere from 30 to 100 animals and largely are found in the northern part of the county, but this year Rhoades said the hogs have spread out into all parts of the county.