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One way to approach the feral hog problem

This has some promise.

The Caldwell County Feral Hog Task Force, a volunteer group [Nick] Dornak started two years ago, is now at the forefront of the state’s patchwork effort to control the wild swine population boom that is hurting farmers, frustrating hunters and poisoning the water in some beloved Central Texas streams and creeks.

Dornak was running the task force’s monthly feral hog bounty claim — hunters and trappers get $5 for every tail or receipt for a hog sale they turn in — when he set up his table across the street from the hallowed Texas barbecue hall that is Kreuz Market.

Kreuz and other pork-serving establishments use a different kind of oinker for their short ribs. Domesticated pigs are like Babe: pink, round and thinly furred. Feral hogs are like Chewbacca: dark, muscular and hairy. And they’re big. A man in Stephenville caught a 790-pounder on his ranch this year.

While many people are familiar with the havoc feral hogs have wreaked in recent years on the agricultural industry by eating crops and digging ruts in fields that can break farm equipment, Dornak, the coordinator of the Plum Creek Watershed Partnership, came to the subject from a different angle.

“The hogs use streams and rivers as highways, which is a really, really big environmental issue,” he said. “They defecate in and near the water, and we’re talking tens of thousands of pounds of feral pig manure in the state of Texas.”

As a result, the E. coli level in Plum Creek is now three to five times higher than what is considered safe for recreational activities like swimming, Dornak said.

The task force, which has received about $100,000 in funding from the county and state, runs the bounty for hunters, provides vouchers for farmers to buy traps, contracts with a helicopter operator that lets veterans shoot swine from the sky and manages three “smart traps,” enormous smartphone-controlled corrals that can trap entire sounders, or families, of hogs at once.

Their efforts have resulted in 8,300 silenced swine in Caldwell County, one of the most afflicted areas in the hog boom that began about 20 years ago. Dornak says it’s the only county-based group of its kind in Texas, and he has been invited to speak in other areas of the state about tackling the problem from the local level.

“We’re kind of the shining star in the state as far as feral hog control,” he said.

See here for more about feral hogs and our efforts to control them than you want to know. Dornak is on to something here, but as with any other effort to keep the hog population in check it is limited by the number of people who are willing and able to get out there and hunt the varmints. The hogs have the advantage here, and they seem to know it. Still, every little bit helps.

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