Houston-area suburbs see uptick in feral hog populations destroying streets, property

Houston-area suburbs see uptick in feral hog populations destroying streets, property

If you have noticed more feral hogs in your Houston-area neighborhood recently, you are not alone. Neighbors across the Greater Houston report the wild animals are more frequently making their way into their subdivisions and streets, leaving properties destroyed in their wake.

The Houston area is not unfamiliar with the battle between feral hogs and residents; last year the Chronicle reported hogs were disrupting neighbors in Liberty and San Jacinto counties; taking over  Spring, Tomball and Cypress areas and driving neighbors in the Woodlands insane. 

The hog epidemic is a problem particularly in Texas; the state's estimated feral hog populations are in excess of 1.5 million, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

In 2017, feral hogs created an estimated economic toll exceeding $1.5 billion in the U.S. In Texas, it is estimated they cause $52 million in agricultural damages every year, according to the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute.

Steven Horelica, co-owner of Deep South Trapping, a Texas-based hog trapping business, said the Houston area has seen a significant increase in feral hog sightings. He has trapped pigs all over suburban areas in Houston, including Kingwood, Missouri City, Cypress and Liberty.

Over the last few years, the number of hogs he has trapped has increased significantly, from 742 in all of 2016 to 1387 in 2018. So far in 2019, he has already caught 306 hogs.

"Instead of being out in rural agricultural land, they are starting to move into subdivisions and cities," Horelica said.  "It is starting to affect everybody, not just farmers or ranchers."

The biggest negative impact these animals have is the destruction they cause to property due to their feeding habits, Horelica said. The pigs use their snouts to root up ground in search of insects or food.

" They can tear up a golf course or a park or someone's yard that has been well maintained and watered and... in one night they can destroy acres and acres of property and cropland," Horelica said.

Horelica said he has been trapping hogs in the Royal Shores subdivision in Kingwood. This area has seen an influx of the wild pigs over recent years, even prompting local officials to take action by hiring professional trappers like Horelica.

As far as the proximity of the pigs to humans, Horelica said they are getting closer to residents. One of the traps Horelica used in Kingwood was placed just twenty yards from homes where hogs were reportedly tearing up land as they traveled up and down a street that led straight into the subdivision.

"Kingwood is a great place [for hogs] because it has so much forest and trees and things that are natural right there, they are great places for them to live," Horelica said. "So they are slowly migrating from all the rural areas into places that have pockets of untouched land and Kingwood is perfect."

Horelica said despite the fact running into a massive feral hog on your mid-day walk through your neighborhood might be terrifying, residents should be aware that they are not as harmful as one might think.

"A lot of people fear them. They go out walking the trails and they run into them and they are afraid, they don't want to go out there," Horelica said. "But typically, they are going to run from you. They will see you before you see them and they are not going to come at you or bother you."

Anyone that comes across wild pigs should stay away and contact a pest control service, a hog trapping company, their homeowner's association or the TPWD. Feral hogs are not classified as game animals but a hunting license is required to hunt them, according to the TPWD.

While some residents may feel the urge to take matters into their own hands and catch the animals themselves, Horelica advised this is not the safest option to get rid of them. While they are usually harmless to unsuspecting residents, the pigs get defensive when provoked or threatened and can be very dangerous.

"It is sometimes a fight to have 33 hogs in a big corral pen who are angry and upset and they want to fight you. They are going to try and cut you with their tusks, they are going to try and fight you, they are going to try and ram you through the fence," Horelica said. "So you have to be careful and cautious and know what you are doing and not just get out there and get yourself hurt."


Original Article can be found in Houston Chronicle

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