Texans aren’t much concerned about a zombie apocalypse. We worry that we’ll be overrun by a more insidious menace…wild hogs. Especially as some of the many diseases they carry are capable of producing zombie-like symptoms amongst the human population. We’re talking . . .
Leptospirosis, brucellosis, E. coli, salmonellosis, toxoplasmosis, rabies,, trichinosis, giardiasis (parasite above), Cryptosporidiosis, pseudorabies, tuberculosis, bubonic plague, tularemia, hog cholera, foot and mouth disease and anthrax . . . to name a few.
Swine brucellosis was one of the first biological agents to be weaponized by the US in 1952. WMD? Yes, these furry foes mean business!
Hunters in Texas are taking up arms to combat these agricultural terrorists. Sadly, we aren’t keeping pace with the high rate at which they procreate by merely hog hunting.
Not only are they declaring war on our lands but these dang furry pigs are nymphos, reproducing at astonishing rates. The females reach sexual maturity as young as three to four months of age. They come into estrus every 18-24 days!
These hairy ladies are polyestrous (the scientific term for lascivious) and the dang things can have up to 12 little piglets in one litter. (Click here for more gross facts about hog ovaries.)
According to studies, there are between 1.8 and 3.4 million wild pigs in Texas alone. That’s half the population of hogs in the entire U.S., and they inhabit most every county in the state. At the rate they’re reproducing and destroying land, wild hogs are vying for the title of America’s Most Invasive Species.
The hog problem costs Texas a whopping $50 million in agricultural damage each year. Across the US, hogs cause an estimated $1.5 billion dollars in damage and are now established in 40-45 US states. In Texas, where it’s legal to go hog hunting year round, we’re only harvesting 750,000 pigs a year.
In other words, hunters and trappers aren’t even making a dent in the hog epidemic. How do we stop them? Can they be stopped?
Trapping, hunting, poisons, helicopters, night vision, silencers and now balloons are all part of The Lone Star State’s war on hogs — until you realize nothing is working. scientificamerican.com (from 2014):
The U.S. Department of Agriculture created a new national program in April to halt and reverse this trend. It aims to wipe out pigs from two states every three to five years and stabilize the population within a decade. Dale Nolte, national coordinator of the program, says his first priority will be states with the fewest pigs; he will then work back to those like Texas that are overrun.
One reason he wants to confront the states with the fewest pigs first is because the animals reproduce rapidly once they invade an area. If 70 percent of the pigs in a region are killed, the remaining ones can have piglets fast enough to replace all those lost in just two and a half years.
Who’s to blame for hogpocalypse?
“In May 1539, Hernando de Soto landed nine ships with over 620 men and 220 horses in an area generally identified as south Tampa Bay,” wikipedia.org reveals. His cargo included 13 razorback pigs.
An unknown number escaped and went, well, hog wild. In addition to the “gift” of measles, smallpox and chicken pox unleashed by the “explorers,” the pigs spread porcine diseases amongst the native populations throughout North America. The continent was literally decimated.
The invasion didn’t stop there. tpwd.texas.gov:
In the 1930s, European wild hogs, “Russian boars,” were first imported and introduced into Texas by ranchers and sportsmen for sport hunting. Most of these eventually escaped from game ranches and began free ranging and breeding with feral hogs. Because of this crossbreeding, there are very few, if any, true European hogs remaining in Texas.
So how exactly do hogs affect us? According to smithsonianmag.com:
Wild hogs are “opportunistic omnivores,” meaning they’ll eat most anything. Using their extra-long snouts, flattened and strengthened on the end by a plate of cartilage, they can root as deep as three feet. They’ll devour or destroy whole fields—of sorghum, rice, wheat, soybeans, potatoes, melons and other fruits, nuts, grass and hay. Farmers planting corn have discovered that the hogs go methodically down the rows during the night, extracting seeds one by one.
Hogs erode the soil and muddy streams and other water sources, possibly causing fish kills. They disrupt native vegetation and make it easier for invasive plants to take hold. The hogs claim any food set out for livestock, and occasionally eat the livestock as well, especially lambs, kids and calves. They also eat such wildlife as deer and quail and feast on the eggs of endangered sea turtles.
So, with all this “hog chaos” is there light at the end of the tunnel? Truthfully, no. However, there is one positive: these little monsters are delicious.
Wild boar is leaner than pen-raised pork for those of you trying to maintain your girlish figures. (Just don’t eat old boars, they’re nasty.) The rib meat is so tender it falls off the bone. You know, the ones not infected with bubonic plague.
Yes, well, there is that.
According to Texas Parks and Wildlife the best way to keep from contracting any diseases is to use rubber gloves when field dressing or cleaning your kill and of course cook the meat thoroughly.
FYI just as a side note, I have cleaned my share of hogs, in the Texas summer heat and it was truly disgusting. My advice: do it hungry! Everything can look delicious when you’re starving.
After you’ve thrown up, later that night by the fire pit, smoke that baby and enjoy your spoils with a cold one. Knowing you’ve done you part for America’s war on hogs.
Be sure to catch Liberte Austin’s Saturday hunting digest.