So many feral hogs. So much more needed to deal with them.
Texas upped the ante in its battle with feral hogs a year ago when it passed a “pork choppers” law that allows recreational shooters to blast wild pigs from low-flying helicopters.
The state doesn’t track the number of hogs killed by aerial gunners, but a new report from the Texas AgriLife Extension Service clearly shows the prolific pigs are winning the war.
As in all conflicts, there is money to be made.
Some helicopter companies say business is better than they ever imagined for shoots that cost from $1,500 to $2,000.
On the ground, a growing number of trappers, landowners and wholesalers are cashing in on all that free-roaming protein by selling trapped hogs to meat-processing plants.
Some skeptics doubt the effectiveness of the airborne assaults, but Dustin Johnson of Cedar Ridge Aviation in Knox City says the 130 or so shooters he has flown have taken out 3,000 to 4,000 pigs since Sept. 1, 2011, when the helicopter hog hunts were legalized.
“We whack ’em and stack ’em,” Johnson said. “We went to the Paris area in December and killed 600 in one weekend. The landowners were begging us to come back.”
But those numbers amount only to minor casualties in the hog war.
Consider that, in 2010, more than 753,000 feral hogs, or 29 percent of the estimated 2.6 million wild pigs in Texas, were eradicated by some means, according to the new report by AgriLife, which is part of the Texas A&M University system.
With that annual harvest rate, it will take only five years for the Texas feral hog population to double to 5.2 million, said Billy Higginbotham, a wildlife and fisheries specialist and one of the authors of the report.
“We estimate in Texas that you have to remove about 66 percent just to hold the population stable,” he said. “If we remove 750,000 pigs a year, we are still falling behind.”