Countywide wild pig abatement programs have been implemented across Texas for decades. Many of these programs are based on some type of bounty system, usually pertaining to a 1-3 month period when physical evidence that verifies animal harvest is brought to a central location and exchanged for money. While bounty programs do accomplish important objectives including promoting public awareness and providing the public incentive to reduce populations, there are several challenges and issues associated with these types of programs. There are usually a limited amount of funds associated with a bounty program and those funds tend to run out well before the end of the program, thereby eliminating the incentive for landowners to continue reducing the number of wild pigs on their property. Another issue raised with bounty programs is the perception that some participants may collect and freeze the required physical evidence of harvest throughout the year in anticipation of a bounty program the following year. Concerns of participants releasing hogs alive after removing the physical evidence of harvest have also risen in past programs. These types of problems have led many counties throughout the state to stop offering bounty programs and look for alternative opportunities to offer their constituents.
Co-ops for Wild Pigs
Cooperative land management efforts are increasing in popularity across Texas, and one alternative is the creation of a landowner cooperative (co-op) abatement program. Wildlife management co-ops allow for collective management plans, where relatively large tracts of land can be actively managed through the pooling of resources and effort. These same principles can be applied through a targeted wild pig abatement co-op. Landowners who are interested may enter the program by paying a small fee, usually on a per acre basis. This fee can then be matched by the county through various funding sources. By requiring landowners to match the funding that the county is putting towards the program, the amount of resources available to the program essentially doubles. The money then goes into a targeted abatement effort, bringing aerial gunning, corral traps, box traps, the use of wireless/suspended trap technologies and other means of reducing the damages associated with wild pigs.
Available county funding can be matched by participating landowners in order to purchase emerging technologies such as remote and suspended trapping systems.
Advantages of Wild Pig Co-op’s
Advantages of a county-based wild pig co-op can include increased landowner engagement, reduced numbers of wild pigs over a continuous area, long-term success through continuous control and others. When landowners contribute funds to the program, they are much more likely to be engaged, while also taking advantage of the available services and expertise for as little as fifty cents on the dollar. Encouraging neighbors to participate together in a program ensures large, continuous tracts of land can be impacted. The upfront cost of a county purchasing head gates and materials to build corral traps can be somewhat expensive, but the long-term benefits are significant and can potentially quickly offset the initial investment. For example, while a bounty program may last 1-3 months, traps can last decades with regular maintenance and good care. Additionally, funds invested into a co-op program continue to work for the county, whereas once bounty funds are distributed they no longer contribute towards future wild pig abatement.
Adjacent landowners who participate together in cooperative wild pig abatement can increase
the success of their efforts when enacting control methods such as trapping and aerial gunning.
A Case Study
Over the last 2 years, one central Texas county has successfully implemented a similar co-op type program instead of offering a conventional bounty program. The county was able to obtain several grants in the amount of $37,500 along with an additional $15,000 in county funds that were set aside for wild pig abatement efforts. The funding, along with funds from participating landowners, were then used to purchase enough materials to build 9 large corral traps and 5 remotely activated head gates. A suspended trapping system and other supplies including game cameras, corn, feeders, and batteries were also purchased. As assembly of the traps was completed, abatement efforts were then enacted over a period of 10-12 months. Since the first traps were placed on properties almost 2 years ago, more than 1,000 hogs have been trapped and removed from the population. A wild pig is estimated to cause a minimum of $250 in annual damages, either to agriculture or through other means. Considering this figure, this Texas county has saved more than $250,000 by implementing a county wide cooperative trapping program in lieu of a conventional bounty program. However, this figure is from trapping activities only, and does not include the additional savings incurred through other abatement strategies including aerial gunning, snaring, strategic shooting and the use of trained dogs.
County based cooperative wild pig abatement is a viable alternative to conventional bounty programs. If you are interested in participating in a similar program or are just curious as to what kinds of resources may be available to you within your county, a good place to start is to contact your county extension agent. He/she can inform you of what kinds of programs/resources are available in your county, and can also put you in touch with professionals such as those from Texas Wildlife Services who can assist with efforts such as beginning an aerial gunning regimen on your property and/or within the co-op. While the success of any cooperative hinges on collaboration and cooperator engagement, this strategy can offer a continuous and long term abatement alternative to conventional bounty programs.
The removal of over 1000 wild pigs in less than two years from one Texas county shows that county- based cooperative wild pig management can be successful. The resources and program are still in use today and will continue to serve landowners for many years to come.