After 41 years, Bubba Ortiz has learned hunting feral hogs is not as easy as it seems.
“They are extremely intelligent,” Ortiz, director of operations at Ortiz Game Management and Wildlife Development, said. “I equate their intelligence to a three-year-old child because they have rudimentary skills.”
Ortiz said he has witnessed hogs who can tell whether or not his traps are set and are able to communicate between groups, warning each other off.
Ortiz is one of many hunters and trappers helping with the effort to curb the feral hog population in Hays County.
According to a press release issued by the Texas Department of Agriculture, the County Hog Abatement Matching Program (CHAMP) granted $30,000 to Hays and Caldwell counties for their partnership with the project.
Starting Sept. 1, the Caldwell County Feral Hog Task Force and CHAMP will be offering a $5 bounty for each hog caught in Hays and Caldwell counties. Nick Dornak, coordinator of the Plum Creek Watershed Partnership, which is partnered with the Feral Hog Task Force, said evidence in the form of a tail will be required to collect the bounty.
“This is both an urban and rural problem that directly impacts our economy and the future of Texas agriculture,” said Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. “We need to step up our efforts to thwart these dangerous creatures and CHAMP does just that.”
The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, a research group working with the partnership, estimates Texas currently has 2.6 million feral hogs. Feral hogs have little competition and very few predators, which allows the population to continually increase with limited population control, according to a report by the group.
Staples said feral hogs are destroying yards, farmers’ fields, golf courses and other public and private properties all across Texas, resulting in millions of dollars in damage.The press release said feral hogs have caused an estimated amount of $500 million in damages to rural and urban areas in Texas each year.
“I have had someone tell me they couldn’t cut my hay field and that (would have earned me) about $18,000,” said Stuart Carter, member of the Caldwell County Feral Hog Task Force. “They (feral hogs) go into your hay fields and they turn them upside down.”
Carter, a Caldwell County landowner, said he is no longer able to use his hay field due to the amount of damage sustained from the feral hogs.
During the last 20 years, feral hogs have created a concern with the state and local landowners due to the damage they create, diseases they carry and destruction to creeks and wildlife, Dornak said.
The AgriLife Extension Service said feral hogs are contributing bacteria and other diseases to creeks, ponds and streams. As a result, the partnership created the Feral Hog Project to bring awareness to the issue.
The partnership is using aerial control from helicopters as well as creating methods to get landowners active in the Feral Hog Project, Dornak said. It is interested in using wireless traps to be leased to landowners through a sign-up sheet as a part of the project.
The wireless trap is in the early stages of development, and Carter said he is testing and modifying the trap at his ranch. Landowners will be able to use the smartphone application “CellGate” to monitor the trap at anytime. The trap is motion censored and will alert the user with pictures in the form of a text.
Ortiz recently partnered with the Plum Creek Partnership to provide services to local landowners and businesses that suffer from feral hogs. Ortiz captures feral hogs on private property and keeps them in a holding cell, and is selling the hogs for meat as a side project.
Patrick Johnson, marketing senior, said he uses his love for the outdoors and his hog hunting dogs to remove a “large amount” of hogs in the Hays County area.
Johnson works with Ortiz Game Management and Wildlife Development to trap and transport hogs.
“I feel it is important to take control of the hog population,” Johnson said. “There is tremendous amount of damage being done to the agricultural industry.”