Mon., September 9, 2013 1:45am (EDT)

Hired Hog Trapper Has Three Years To Clean Out Dallas
By NPR Staff
Updated: 10 months ago

Feral hogs were once just a rural problem in Texas, but now they threaten to turn city parks into sties.
Feral hogs were once just a rural problem in Texas, but now they threaten to turn city parks into sties.
Texas has a pig problem.

Wild hogs have overrun the state so rapidly that in 2011, Texas allowed them to be hunted all year round. The feral hog epidemic even spawned a reality show called Aporkalypse Now, following Ted Nugent as he shoots hogs from a helicopter.

But what was once just a rural problem is now closing in on the city of Dallas. So Dallas decided to bring in Osvaldo Rojas, a professional trapper with years of hog-catching experience. His company, City Trapping, was hired to eradicate Dallas' wild hogs over the next three years.

"I've hunted all my life, ever since I was small, and my father always told me, if you do something you love, you never work a day in your life," Rojas says.

Left alone, hogs are about as fertile as rats, Rojas says. "One adult sow can have six to 10 piglets. Out in the woods, I guarantee you 99 percent of the piglets are going to make it. At six months, that same piglet is already fertile."

The feral pig population in Texas has grown to nearly 3 million, roughly half of all the feral hogs in the country. In Dallas, they are bathing in rivers, spreading diseases, ruining the parks basically, turning the city into a pig sty.

"If you think about it, Dallas spends millions of dollars on up-keeping at a park," Rojas says. "And one hog can tear up half an acre in a night."

The Texas Department of Agriculture says feral hogs cause $52 million in damage every year. On top of that, they're dangerous: People have reported hog attacks in the parks.

"It's a 300-pound hog," Rojas says. "If it's a big boar or a mama with piglets, it's gonna charge."

Rojas says he's been flipped about five times in the last month. Even someone who deals with hogs every day doesn't always come away scratch-free.

"I've had quite a bit of injuries: stitches, a couple of broken bones," he says. "About eight pairs of boots, you name it, jeans. I just stopped buying jeans. I just wear them ripped now. There's no reason to keep buying them if they're gonna continue to get ripped, so might as well keep wearing 'em."

His plan involves placing large traps with video cameras all around the city, luring the hogs with feeding stations. Once the entire pack is in the trap, he closes the gates from his smartphone. Constant video surveillance allows him to study their behavior for days.

Rojas estimates it will take about two years to trap most of the hogs, and then the last year to capture the stragglers. He says has a strategy that sets him apart.

"It doesn't take much, but it has to do with patience," he explains. "I can sit out there for eight hours and not see anything, and I'm totally fine. It takes somebody to have patience. And a little bit of know-how."


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