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New app tracks wild boars in Texas

Wild boars are becoming a critical issue in Texas which has led to the A&M State University rolling out an app to help with their control.

25 January 2019, at 2:57pm

Dr Jim Cathey, associate director of The Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute (NRI) explains: “Landowners throughout Texas are constantly seeing wild pigs and their damage. Unfortunately, until now, we didn’t have a good method of collecting the information on where the pigs were sighted and what type of damage they were doing.”

How much damage are wild boars capable of?

According to the USDA, wild boars cause up to $2.5 Billion in damage every year. There are more than five million wild hogs which roam throughout 39 states in America. Texas, being a larger state, seems to have more than its share of wild boar issues.

Wild boars can destroy buildings, uproot trees, ruin crops and also cause a number of health risks to people and native wildlife in the areas they inhabit. Hogs are capable of leaving fields with craters up to five feet wide and three feet deep where they have dry bathed or enjoyed a wallowing during a rainstorm and with so much damage, particularly in rural areas, it becomes difficult to conduct basic farm operations such as moving a tractor from one field to another.

By stripping an area of grass, wild boar also allow development of an ecosystem where saplings crowd out native pecan trees – eliminating food for opossums, deer, and other native wildlife.

The history of the hog

The Smithsonian Magazine highlights the long history of feral hogs in the US. Brought to the New World and left in the Caribbean by Christopher Columbus, wild hogs were taken to Florida by explorer Hernando De Soto. From there, humans and the wild pigs coexisted peacefully for centuries. It was only in the 1980s that the swine population became out of control. This is mostly due to the fact that hunters found hunting of wild boars to be a challenge, so expeditions were begun and ranchers started to encourage wild boar to inhabit areas in closer proximity to human settlements, even feeding them in some instances.

These days, hunters in Texas are permitted to handle the problem year round through slaughter or capture. If they capture wild swine, they can have them slaughtered and sold as exotic meat to restaurants. There are no limits on the number of pigs that may be trapped or killed.

The app

Texas A&M’s app is significant because it allows ranchers to give direct input into how many wild hogs they are seeing in their area. Reporting options are available for wild pig damage, where the pigs were sighted, the number seen and type – male, female, old, young, and what type of damage they may have done. It is a first step in gathering a state-wide database of the damage of wild boars so that a more comprehensive plan may be put in place to reduce the population. Additionally, the app can continue to be used to show whether specific efforts to control the population are effective.