DEL RIO, Texas, Nov. 13, 2006 — -- A million dangerous pigs are roaming Texas soil, challenging farmers and devouring their crops.
These animals have ravenous appetites and no natural predator in Texas. With the feral pig population exploding, game wardens are begging hunters to go after the wild animals.
"I often tell people to think of a feral hog as a four-legged fire ant," said Billy Higginbotham of the Texas Extension Cooperative, which offers Texas A&M research to state residents. "We are not going to eradicate them; what our hope is that we can reduce their population to reduce damage."
That damage is costing farmers $50 million a year, and one farmer said his attempts to keep them out failed. "In my sweet potato patch last year, I bought an electric fence [and] it has no effect on them," said farmer Lemar Bass.
"There are only two types of landowners in the state of Texas -- those that have feral hogs and those that are about to have feral hogs," Higginbotham said.
"If it has a calorie, they will eat it," added hunter Bob Richardson.
The Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto brought the hogs to America in 1539 and now they are eating crops, chicken and sheep.
With game wardens asking hunters to target the feral pigs, hundreds of thousands of sportsmen are flocking to Texas, thrilled at the chance to bag the big one.
"There is some mystique about them; you know, he is called 'the poor man's grisly bear' and there is a certain amount of danger hunting them," said hunting lodge owner Maurice Chambers.
But not all are convinced this approach will work. "You are not going to control the feral hog population by hunting -- they are smart," Higginbotham said.
"The wild hog just has the better intelligence of any wild animal living -- they are just very brilliant animals," Chambers said.
That is, brilliant and unfettered as they chomp their way across the Lone Star State.