Several legislative sessions ago, a bill was introduced making it illegal to use dogs to hunt feral hogs in Texas. “Feral” means formerly domestic but now gone wild.

And, man! Have they gone wild -- now depredating in most Texas counties. I wish they ate fire ants! I’ve hunted several deer leases and numerous ranches for years, and all had hogs. 

When I joined one lease, another hunter told me I should always carry a pistol since hogs were all over the lease and a danger to humans – especially folks filling deer feeders. Trail camera images revealed more hogs than game animals around my feeder. They’re everywhere!

On behalf of the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society, I testified against that bill mentioned above. The bill’s sponsor, a prominent State Representative from Houston, didn’t show up for the hearing. He probably had received enough mail and calls to realize the bill was going nowhere. And it didn’t.

My testimony was that anything that could be done to control feral hogs should be encouraged, not made illegal -- except using a poison that could harm other wildlife and perhaps humans eating venison. The bill was left pending in committee. In legislative jargon, that means it would probably take a “committee nap” for the rest of the session. It died without a whimper.

It was probably introduced to appease some sensitive constituent. That happens in politics. Dogs can get hurt or killed cornering a hog, and sicking a pack of dogs on any animal could be considered inhumane to some folks. Regardless, the Texas hog problem has reached the crisis stage. And trailing hogs with dogs is an effective way to hunt them.

Since then, the legislature has liberalized laws to allow hunting hogs from helicopters and hot air balloons. Personally, I wouldn’t object to people hunting them with drones.

A bill passed both legislative houses recently in Austin. SB 317 would allow killing hogs without requiring a hunting license or showing that the invader had caused damage, as was formerly the law. It has been sent to the governor to sign, and indications are that he will. If he does, it will become law on September 1.   

This will legalize what some were already doing, according to anecdotal accounts. I’m told game professionals classify all feral hogs as “depredating” and evidence I have seen on a number of ranches supports that.

Nobody knows how many feral hogs there are in Texas. They won’t stand still long enough to be counted. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, research has estimated between 1.8 million and 3.4 million – averaging 2.6 million.

Reports I’ve seen predict 70% need to be removed each year to maintain that level, and that’s not happening. Some papers indicate their population grows by 20% each year. Sexually mature before their first birthday and having two to three litters of 6-8 piglets/year enables that.

Regarding SB 317, an authority told me, “Eliminating all barriers to removing this exotic species is favored.” 

John Jefferson is a lifelong outdoorsman, former regulations coordinator at Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept., past executive director of the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society, and author of two books on Texas hunting.

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