Feral hogs are a mean, nasty nuisance and over the last several years, they have multiplied in South Texas, creating a nightmare for farmers, ranchers and even urban residents.
“Feral hogs are a pretty big problem,” said Nick Dornak, the Plum Creek Watershed coordinator. "They are an agricultural problem -- that is where you first see it. It’s an environmental problem and, ultimately, it’s an economic problem.”
Hogs can do serious damage to grazing lands.
“Our biggest issue with them is the grass and ruining fences -- they will come through a fence and plow it over," said Brian Heideman, a rancher in Caldwell County.
“A (single) feral hog is responsible for about $200 a year in economic impact,” Dornak said.
There are estimates that some 5,000 to 6,000 hogs roam Caldwell and Hays counties and that means millions of dollars lost.
The hogs can also damage the environment. Since they don’t sweat, they spend a lot of time near and in creeks.
"You are going to see increases in bacteria in those creeks,” said Dornak.
With the help of contributions for Hays and Caldwell counties, and the company Cellgate, there is a new way to attack the hog problem: a remote-controlled gate on a round pen.
The pen is about 25 feet wide and has a gate that can be operated by cell phone. There are currently three of these traps sitting in fields waiting to close in the hogs.
Heideman has one of his land.
“I never thought when I moved back to the family farm (that) I would be using my cell phone to trap hogs and manage the ranch, " Heideman said.
The gate has a motion detector on it. When it senses something, it sends a text or email to Heideman’s cell phone, along with an attached picture.
If he sees he has some hogs in the trap, he hits and button and the gate closes, allowing him to catch the critters from anywhere.
“I have been sitting at a football game in Kerrville and checked the trap," Heideman said.
The first night the trap was set up, Heideman caught 29 hogs. He said that is much easier than trying to hunt them down.
"This is the only way to do it. It's so easy,” Heideman said.
“This wireless trapping program is great because it allows land-owners the tools to handle this on their time when they can,” Dornak said.