New law takes aim at wild pigs

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Beginning Sept. 1, with a landowner’s consent, anyone – licensed or not – can send a wild pig to that big sty in the sky. Gov. Greg Abbott last week signed Senate Bill 317, a bill authored by state Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola).

The bill passed the Senate 31-0 and the House 141-2 with seven abstentions. The new law allows people to kill feral hogs without a Texas hunting license as long as they have the landowner’s permission. Previously, a person needed a license to take out a wild pig.

The legislative ball got rolling when Hughes received a call from a Northeast Texas constituent who informed the senator that the only thing he ever pulls a trigger on is a feral hog, and “the government should never get between a hog and his rifle,” a spokesman for Hughes’s office in Austin recalled. A hunting license – $25 for an adult state resident – equates to a tax on someone defending their property and doing the state a favor, argued the constituent, who implored Hughes to act.

Hughes and his staff worked closely with the state’s game wardens and Texas Parks & Wildlife (TP&W) in crafting the legislation, the spokesman said. Additionally, wild pigs “are going suburban now,” he noted.

The support from wildlife experts and the fact that wild pigs are no longer just a country problem combined to give the bill widespread support from rural, suburban and urban lawmakers alike, he said.

Wild pigs are a growing nuisance across the state, especially in East Texas. In September 2017, feral hogs tore up the Quitman Arboretum (now called the Wood County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens) at Governor Jim Hogg City Park. The wild pigs uprooted grass, flower beds and irrigation lines and knocked over statues. From the sweet potato fields of Golden and Alba to cattle pastures across Wood County, the critters have caused a lot of headaches.

The hogs can smell tubers and produce growing in gardens and fields, according to Wood County Extension Agent Shaniqua Davis. Trail cameras have caught up to 40 at a time congregated in Quitman, she said.

A&M AgriLife Extension Service reported in May that wild pigs “were very active and damage reports increased” in East Texas.

According to TP&W, wild hogs generally do not pose a health threat to humans, but some diseases can be transmitted to livestock and wildlife. Various diseases of wild hogs include pseudorabies, swine brucellosis, tuberculosis, bubonic plague, tularemia, hog cholera, foot and mouth disease, and anthrax. Internal parasites include kidney worms, stomach worms, round worms and whipworms. Liver flukes and trichinosis are also found in hogs. External parasites include dog ticks, fleas and hog lice.

TP&W estimates the feral hog population in Texas at 3 million to 5 million and growing.

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