Feral hogs can out-think a man, can spread deadly swine flu, can double in population every year, are so aggressive they will attack a child or a grown man, can climb trees, are impossible to kill, cause more than  $52 million in agricultural damages each year in Texas alone, are mean-spirited and predatory and can not be eradicated.

These are just a few claims being circulated around the breakfast table at hundreds of rural main street diners across Texas, and while many of the claims are more fiction than fact, there is a real and growing concern about the escalating feral hog problem in Texas that has farmers, ranchers and researchers scrambling to develop a strategy to help curtail the substantial damage these wild animals are causing on the Texas ag industry.

“It’s a very conservative estimate, but feral hog-related damages to crops, fields and fruit and nut orchards in Texas exceed $52 million a year in losses to the state’s ag industry, and this is based upon numbers of a 2004 study,” says Dr. Billy Higginbotham, extension wildlife & fisheries specialist with Texas AgriLife Extension Service, a resident expert when it comes to feral hog populations in Texas.

“There is a great deal of myth and misinformation about these animals, but what we have confirmed as truth is frightening enough, and the problem is not going to get any better until we effectively educate property owners on how to deal with it,” he added.

Higginbotham is a featured topic speaker at the upcoming 71st Annual Meeting of Soil and Water Conservation Districts October 24-26 at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort in San Antonio. The annual meeting draws some 600 conservation district officials from across the state.

“This is a problem that has been developing for a long time, so it shouldn’t be surprising it has become a major concern. The feral hog population in Texas has caused extensive damage to peanut, milo and corn crops, is responsible for damages caused by rooting out levees in rice country, has had a negative impact on peach and pecan orchards and has the potential of spreading disease among domestic hogs,” Higginbotham explained.

While the number one problem with the wild hog population is pasture damage, Higginbotham says they also have caused false-positive testing for brucellosis in beef cattle, and swine brucellosis and pseudorabies are also a concern. Recently while testing feral hogs for brucellosis, researchers at Texas Tech documented the presence of tularemia in a large number of hogs tested. Tularemia can be transmitted to other animals and humans. Pseudorabies can be transmitted to other animals, and swine brucellosis can be contracted by humans.