‘It’s going to be a forever thing.' North Arlington neighborhood battles yearly visits by feral hogs
Paula Panchak loves her home and neighborhood in Arlington. Parkway North sits just south of the Trinity River and River Legacy Park, which puts residents close to paved trails, lush forest and an array of animal species.
“We have gorgeous wildlife to watch,” Panchak said. “That’s what keeps me from moving away.”
However, feral hogs that make appearances during the colder months could one day sway her.
The invasive species tends to travel along the Trinity River but makes stops in neighborhoods like Parkway North. Verdant lawns and lush gardens are prime targets for pigs, which root in soil. Panchak was told the acorns from the oak tree on her property makes her yard an attractive target.
“Oh, it looks like someone has come through with a rototiller. They literally destroy the yard,” Panchak said.
Arlington experiences high hog activity between October and March. Arlington Animal Services trapped 25 pigs in October, according to David Davis, who heads the hog trapping program. That’s a high number for so early in the season.
Over the years, Panchak has seen as many as nine hogs in her side yard at a time.
“It’s been very frustrating, the amount of damage they’ve done. And it’s also frightening. You have to be careful when you go outside because they’re very aggressive. And if they have babies with them, you’re in danger of being attacked,” Panchak said.
State law prohibits people from releasing captured hogs. The city of Arlington sells pigs to a meat processing plant and uses revenue to buy new traps.
“For the most part, we try to let wildlife be wild,” Davis said. “But in the case of the hogs, with them being an invasive species and stuff, we make an exception.”
Booming hog populations
The hog population in North America has grown rapidly over the last few decades, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The creatures are in all but one Texas county. The population countrywide increased from 2.4 million to nearly 7 million between 1982 and 2016.
European settlers introduced the creatures to the southern U.S. and the Carribean around 500 years ago as a low-maintenance food supply. Pigs prefer a colder climate, but so many were brought into the country that the population took off anyway, according to John Tomecek with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
“If pigs get out as they have in places to colder parts of the world, they will be harder to get rid of. Canada is fighting that right now in a few of their provinces,” Tomecek said.
Hogs get attention for decimated yards, sports fields and business lawns, but they impact every facet of life, he said.
“We have issues of pigs getting in and contaminating water sources to where they are now under Clean Water Act regulations. (That water is) no longer safe to use. Water affects all of us. Pigs will affect the things that affect all of us,” Tomecek said.
Trapping programs like Arlington’s are common for urban areas and beneficial in catching entire sounders, or groups of pigs, Tomecek said. Mother pigs cooperatively raise their young, and sounders learn very quickly to avoid danger.
“If you were out there removing pigs and you get one or two pigs from that group, they will adjust their activities to avoid you because they have learned what happens and they go away,” Tomecek said.
Living with hogs
After years of trying to keep up their St. Augustine grass lawn after feral hog visits, Kelly Sazama and Mark McGinnis are considering "zeroscaping" their yard. The term refers to yard with dirt, rocks and minimal plants.
“We still have some bushes and plants right by our house and those are OK in the front yard. But the yard itself, the grass was torn up so many times that it’s not growing back,” Sazama said.
The couple said in an early October interview they would like more communication with the city. Staffing changes left the two unsure of the person in charge of the program, and images of hogs outside of unbaited traps left them frustrated.
Since then, Sazama said she has felt better after receiving Davis’ contact information. She’s also noticed that officers are more regularly setting traps.
“It’s going to be a forever thing,” Sazama said of the hog presence. “We don’t think it’s going to disappear, but you know, it’s nice to have a give and take with the city,” she said.
People can report hog or other wild animal sightings by calling Arlington Animal Services at 817-459-5898. Davis said he will put up cameras, traps and other deterrents to try to keep animals away from humans. He has traps in areas including Parkway North, the Arlington Landfill and River Legacy Park.
“Pigs move a lot, but if I get a report of a sighting in the area, I’m definitely going to make that a priority,” Davis said. “I want to get in there and put a stop to it before they come in habitually.”
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