NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Medical officials have a health warning for Texans hunting feral hogs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, feral hogs can expose hunters to a bacterial illness called brucellosis.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples says hunters need to avoid contact with the animal's blood or organs. "Part of being a safe hunter is to know the game that you're hunting and know the circumstance," he advised. "It's always wise to promote the best and latest information and for hunters to be fully informed."
Earlier this year Staples said he was putting feral hogs on the "most wanted list" and had been a strong supporter of a program to reduce feral hog populations in Texas. The animals, which can grow to more than 400 pounds, are prolific and cause millions of dollars in damage.
"From homeowners, to golf courses, to farmers fields, feral hogs are causing tremendous damage and we need to reduce the numbers," Staples urged. ‘They do damage to the tune of $500,000,000 each year."
Staples said hunters he has spoken with are aware they need to avoid direct contact with the blood or organs of the animals. "I hunt regularly and interact with hunters regularly and I haven't come across anyone that's not fully aware of the brucellosis issue."
CDC officials urge hunters to use gloves and protective eyewear when field dressing a feral hog.
USDA estimates have the American feral pig population at more than four million, in at least 39 states. The largest populations are here in Texas, California, Florida, Hawaii and Louisiana.