HOUSTON (NBC News) — From trampling fields to eating crops, wild hogs are tearing a path of destruction across southeast Texas.
On an early November morning in Chambers County, a pack of hogs attacked and killed 59-year-old Christine Rollins outside of the home where she worked as a caregiver. The Jefferson County Medical Examiner ruled her death as “exsanguination due to feral hog assault.” She bled to death.
With a population in the millions and growing each year, the threat wild hogs bring to property and people is rising.
“Damage to lawns is caused by pigs rooting for grubs underneath the grass,” said Mike Bodenchuk, the director of Texas Wildlife Services. “Watering your lawn to keep the grubs down will avoid pig damage.”
Bodenchuk’s agency is tasked with protecting humans, agriculture and other natural resources by removing feral hogs.
“While feral hogs are considered a game animal in most places, nowhere in the world are they controlled by hunters,” Bodenchuk said.
Bodenchuk estimates Texas’ feral hog population is between 1.5 million and 3 million, and growing.
“Wildlife services and many landowners use trapping, snaring or shooting to remove feral hogs,” Bodenchuk said. “While this is effective, it must be an intensive effort to get to the population control level.”
According to Bodenchuk, there are several things home and landowners can do to help keep their property free of feral hogs.
“The best method of feral hog control includes prevention,” he said. “Attractants on your property, like fruit or nuts that are laying on the ground (need to go), and pick up your dog food at night.”
Wild hogs are nocturnal and are usually out in the early morning hours. That’s when Christine Rollins was attacked — before the sun came up. Still, attacks on humans are extremely rare, and unprovoked attacks even rarer still.
Bodenchuk warned that if you find feral hogs on your property, make loud noises to startle them away, but never walk into a pack of them.
“Feral hogs, like all wildlife, can become habituated to people,” Bodenchuk said. “We recommend people don’t allow them on the property, scare them off to avoid that habituation.”
Right now, state officials aren’t using any toxins for hog control. Until a method for total elimination is found, Bodenchuk said wildlife services and its team of 160 field agents will continue working on solutions to remove them.
“Feral hogs are an ecological train wreck,” Bodenchuk said. There’s no part of the natural environment that they don’t impact.”