Animal Welfare

Dallas Readies to Tackle Feral-Hog Scourge. Again.

The forebears of the modern-day feral hog arrived in Texas well before there was a Texas, tagging along with and occasionally escaping from early Spanish explorers in 17th century. They took to the wild, where they spread like kudzu and interbred with subsequent waves of formerly domesticated swine gone rogue, the processes of selection — natural or otherwise — thinning out the weak and stripping their kind of superfluity and mercy. They hardened into ruthless destroyers of everything good, a bane to man and nature alike and completely unstoppable by either.

Among the places the hogs have taken up residence is within the city of Dallas, in any wild patch connected to the Trinity River green belt and in the vast Great Trinity Forest. There, they have taken to tearing up levees and golf courses, rooting through the Trinity River Audubon Center's delicate wetland ecosystem, contaminating the outflow of Big Spring, the ancient seep beloved of historians and environmentalists, with E coli, and generally wreaking havoc.

In 2013, City Hall decided to do something about the swine infestation and awarded a $284,000 pig-trapping contract to a company called City Trapping, which was actually just a guy named Osvaldo Rojas. The contract, however, was never actually executed for reasons that were never disclosed but which probably had something to do with Rojas' habit of toting guns on his hog hunts and the fact that the city had hired a single dude to take down hundreds of wild beasts. The hogs, meanwhile, have continued to tear their way through Dallas' wild and wild-ish places essentially unmolested. The problem was never even close to solved.

All that happened more than two years ago, but the city hasn't given up and is right now in the initial stages of giving hog control another go. The topic was discussed briefly last week at an occasionally contentious meeting between city staff and Great Trinity Forest watchdogs. (Among other conflagrations, Paul White, a Trinity Watershed Management staffer who oversees the horse park water-quality, took exception to watchdog Richard Grayson's reference to city forester Karen Woodard — a recent transfer to TWM — as "cut-it-down Karen Woodard.")

"All this talking about Karen Woodard, all this going to the media with things before you bring them to us ... a lack of what I'd say [is] respect," White said hotly.)

Becky Rader, a biologist/activist turned Dallas parks board member, said the Park and Recreation Department is taking the lead on the problem and will issue a request for proposals for hog control in the not-too-distant future. The previous effort was led by TWM, which is the same city department responsible for the Texas Horse Park, Trinity toll road and other awful things the city is doing along the river.

Partially in preparation for the hog contract, and partly to plug a longstanding knowledge gap about the management of wild fauna on city land, the park department is adding a bona fide wildlife biologist to its staff. Brett Johnson, who for several years has served in a parallel role for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's North Texas region, is scheduled to start this month. "Please be patient on this. Things are in the works," Johnson said at the meeting. "[It's at the] very beginning, but keep in mind we don't want to run into the issues from last go round. We want to make sure we get all the i's dotted and t's crossed."

That's not to say that no progress will be made in the meantime. Richard Hill, a landowner just north of Big Spring, wondered if there was anything to prevent him from trapping hogs on his own property. It wouldn't be difficult to set some traps; he even knew where one group was living. Johnson advised him that trapping the hogs was fine and even encouraged. Disposing of them, however, could be a problem given the intricacies of city regulations on the transport and disposal of wildlife. Hill brushed him off. "Don't worry about it. They're delicious."
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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson