Feral hogs problematic for city residents

CHEROKEE COUNTY (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - Austin Young is used to dealing with unwanted furry animals.

The 43-year-old routinely encounters feral hogs at his family farm in west Cherokee County, near the Neches River. Last spring, hogs destroyed a yard of lawn grass on the property, and an entire family group was once caught during the course of a couple of weeks, he said.

Young, who continues to trap or hunt the animals, said larger traps are being built to catch more at one time.

"I just hope that everybody keeps after them," Young said. "It's more of a problem than most people realize."

It's a problem that resurfaced recently in Jacksonville. In 2008, the city council established an official policy about the city's right to trap feral hogs. At the time, the animals popped up around Woodhaven Circle, and the policy allowed the city to trap them with homeowner permission.

Jacksonville is now seeing hogs in the Nichols Green Park area, north of Trinity Mother Frances-Jacksonville.

In the past month or so, people called the city about hog sightings in the area, prompting the city to put out traps, City Manager Mo Raissi said. He estimated that city staff on Monday trapped two large hogs and likely four or five smaller hogs.

"We caught a bunch of them (in the past, and) we felt like we got a bunch of them out," Raissi said. "Now it looks like they're coming back again."

Jacksonville Public Works Director Will Cole said the wooded area is conducive to a feral hog habitat, and as long as they stay in the woods, people don't notice them. However, when they start venturing into areas the city maintains, it becomes a problem, he said.

Cole said there's a technique to baiting and placing the traps, and some workers have different ideas. Corn is mostly used, and as of Tuesday, the city planned to keep two traps out.

"Sometimes, placement of traps is not conducive to catching," Cole said. "We'll move periodically until they move back into the woods."

He added, "The more hogs, the bigger area they occupy. If you keep hogs down to a small population, they obviously have no need to venture out into dangerous areas where people live. I think competition for food tempts them to move out to (a more populated) area."

Raissi urged residents to be cautious and call the city if they have concerns.

The situation in Jacksonville is indicative of a statewide issue. There are about 2 million feral hogs in Texas, according to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

The feral hog population is always on the rise, and the animals can only stay in one area for a certain amount of time, said Mike Hanson, with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

"Wild hogs historically — even if they seem to have everything they need in a place — they will leave," he said. "They're becoming smarter and smarter and more wise to our ways.
People used to have more success in trapping."

Hanson said the animals' movements are greatly driven by food — they love acorns — and can wind up in places where they historically weren't.

He said they'll generally try to get away from people, but if cornered, can become aggressive.

"People need to be aware they are out there. They do pose a threat. They're going to try to get away from you in most instances," Hanson said.

He said people could see hogs during the day, depending on availability of food, but they primarily run around at night.

There is no hunting season for hogs. However, Hanson said if people hunt them at night, they are asked to call and let the local game warden know.

"We receive calls (where residents) think people are hunting deer at night, but it might be a neighbor trying to eradicate a hog from their property," he said.

In fact, Cherokee County Game Warden Eric Collins said about every landowner he's talked with this year is having problems with hogs rooting up their land.

He said wetter conditions, more habitats for hogs and few predators that keep the population in check could all be contributing factors.

"These hogs, being that (their) population has boomed, moved into more (populated) areas. Hogs can do damage when moving around trying to feed," Collins said.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Biologist Daniel Price said trapping is likely the best way to deal with the hogs on big property.

Jacksonville residents with hog issues can call Public Works at 903-589-3510.


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