The feral hog population in Texas is exploding, and Kaufman County isn’t immune to the damage the hogs wreak on farmers.
That’s the message County Extension Agent Ralph Davis told members of the Kaufman Lions Club on Friday.
The office has three Boar Buster traps that it provides to county residents for a cost of $250 to pay for the satellite service, Davis said. The satellite allows landowners to monitor the traps on their cell phones, then capture a group of hogs with one release of the trap. One area landowner has trapped more than 100 hogs on his property in the past two months using a Boar Buster, Davis said.
“Hogs have just decimated their hay fields,” he added.
There are an estimated 3 million feral hogs in Texas, and just to keep that population in check, about 70% of them would need to be killed annually, and the actual rate is between 15 and 20%, Davis said. The population in Texas could grow to 6 million without more hunting and trapping, he said.
The problem with feral hogs is their fecundity and lack of natural predators, other than humans and the occasional mountain lion. A female hog can have eight piglets per litter two times a year, so without intensive hunting and trapping pressure, the populations are booming.
A member of the club asked if shooting the hogs from helicopters would work here. Davis said it’s hard because a lot of continuous acreage is needed, and it can’t be near any roads, making that kind of culling difficult in this area.
A hog can cause as much as $300 in damages per animal per acre of land, Davis said. Kaufman County produces about $90 million in agricultural products annually, primarily in beef and hay, with a growing segment of horticulture, as well. Kaufman County could be featured in an upcoming edition of Sports Illustrated, after a reporter visited here doing research on hog hunting.
What concerns Davis is that groups of hogs have been seen near Interstate 35 north of Dallas. Hitting dark hogs on highways at night can be incredibly dangerous for drivers, he added.
Davis said other than hogs, other recent calls the extension office has received are questions about dying oak trees. This spring’s heavy rains, followed by a dry summer, have stressed some post oaks in the county. He also recommends not driving over the root systems of post oaks.
“They’re very finicky trees,” Davis said.
No oak wilt has been diagnosed in live oaks in Kaufman County, he added, but the number of calls about stressed oaks has increased from about four or five a month to 40 calls in July.
Davis said there’s nothing to be done to help the stressed trees, but there is a treatment available for anthracnose disease, which also attacks oak trees.
Davis also provided club members with some background about the area’s extension offices, which provide research-based information from the nation’s land-grant universities. Kaufman County Extension is part of the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension program. In 1903, research on boll weevils started on the Porter farm near Terrell, laying the foundation for extension work in Texas, Davis said.
“That’s a big part of why extension even exists,” he explained. Three Texas historical markers are on the Porter Farm, which is considered to be the first demonstration farm in the U.S. and is still owned by members of the Porter family.