by BRAD ROLLINS
LOCKHART – The Caldwell County Feral Hog Task Force has doubled its bounty on feral hogs during the month of November, offering $10 for each tail of the destructive invasive species redeemed at designated local businesses.
More than 5,500 wild pigs in Caldwell County were bagged during the first nine months of 2014, said Nick Dornak, who leads efforts to reduce the population of feral pigs in the 397-square-mile area that drains to Plum Creek. The creek flows 52 miles from its source in Kyle to its confluence with the San Marcos River south of Luling.
In 2004, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regulators declared that E. coli bacteria levels in parts of Plum Creek made its water unsafe to swim in. A multi-year protection plan funded by the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board and the Environmental Protection Agency concluded in 2008 that wild animal feces was a significant part of the problem and established an objective of reducing the feral pig population by at least 1,835 animals.
That goal has been met many times over in the six years since the plan was adopted; nevertheless, the feral hog problem persists here as it does in 36 states and all but one of Texas’ 254 counties.
To be eligible for the $10 bounty, participants must take an one-hour education course on feral hog management; people who do not take the class can still collect $5 per pig. Caldwell County earns points toward a Texas Department of Agriculture feral hog abatement grant for the each resident who takes the course and for each hog removed through hunting or trapping.
“We really wanted to encourage folks to participate in the educational component of the grant program, so we decided to offer a $10 bounty on the hogs harvested,” said Dornak, an ecologist who oversees implementation of the Plum Creek Watershed Protection Plan as well as the feral hog task force.
|10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Every Monday in November||Caldwell County Farm & Ranch||519 N. Colorado St., Lockhart|
|1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Every Monday in November||Salt Flat Feed and Mercantile||898 N. Magnolia Avenue, Luling|
|5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 11||Lockhart Municipal Airport||222 Airport Road, Lockhart|
|1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 30||Caldwell County Show Barn||1403 Blackjack Street, Lockhart|
To drum up interest in its programs, the feral hog task force and local veterans group are hosting a Wild Pig Feast starting 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 11 at Lockhart Municipal Airport’s Martin & Martin Aviation, 222 Airport Road. The event will include a catered wild pig dinner followed by a 6 p.m. workshop organized by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Partially funded with a $30,000 state grant awarded to Hays and Caldwell counties in August 2013, the bounty program documented 3,324 feral hogs killed between January and September 2014 within the creek’s watershed by bounty hunters, professional trappers and Operation Dustoff, a Fentress-based nonprofit organization that takes wounded and injured military veterans on aerial hog-hunting expeditions in a helicopter. Because the task force calculates that 30 percent of hog killings are not reported, Dornak estimates that more than 5,500 hogs were actually removed within his jurisdiction in the first nine months of 2014. An earlier bounty program eliminated 1,025 feral hogs in Caldwell County and 110 in Hays County during the last three months of 2012.
The state’s feral hog population — estimated at 2.6 million in 2012 — increases 19 to 25 percent each year, according to an analysis written by a team that includes Billy Higginbotham, a Texas A&M University wildlife and fisheries professor, and Jared B. Timmons, the Texas AgriLife wildlife assistant.
In 2010, hunters and trappers killed an estimated 753,646 feral hogs in Texas, about 29 percent of the population, according to the Texas A&M report. While killing more than a quarter of an entire species would seem to put a significant dent in the scourge, it is inadequate to even keep the wild pig population from growing larger, the report states. Given the pigs’ prolific reproduction cycles, 66 percent of the state’s feral hog population must be eliminated each year to maintain current infestation levels, the report states.
Plum Creek Watershed Protection Plan | 2008 [pdf]
Plum Creek Watershed Protection Plan| 2014 Update [pdf]
COVER: STOCK PHOTO by PHOTO by DON McCULLOUGH. MERCURY PHOTO ILLUSTRATION by BRAD ROLLINS
ICON: PHOTO by LARRY MILLER. SAN MARCOS MERCURY GRAPHIC by BRAD ROLLINSEmail | Print