Thursday, September 26, 2013

A problem we don't have - yet

...and I've wondered why not. A few days ago, Galveston County Daily News posted a story about the ever-increasing problem of feral hogs in Texas, and while I've seen feral hogs just about everywhere else around greater Houston, I haven't seen them anywhere in north Galveston County.  And I've wondered why not. 
Feral hogs are domesticated pigs that got loose and reverted to a wild state.  They are an enormous problem in Texas and only getting worse.

Screengrabbed from Wikipedia
South Galveston County, absolutely yes, I've seen them there.  Twenty years ago, the intensity of feral hog damage on Pelican Island had to be seen to be believed.  Large swaths of soil turned over as if by a factory-farm-grade roto-tiller.  At the time, I remember wondering where on earth they could possibly be hiding during daylight hours (they're nocturnal), because there really wasn't much on Pelican Island in the way of high scrub or forestation. 

And they are well-established on the north side of Clear Lake.  Let me give you a vivid example.  About ten years ago, a huge engineering mistake was made on the extension of Space Center Boulevard from Clear Lake City Boulevard to Genoa Red Bluff. 
I'm screengrabbing from this Chron article because it's so old that it will surely fall victim to link rot before too much longer.
Basically what happened is that they screwed up and built Space Center Boulevard at an unacceptably-low elevation.  They had to go back and rip the entire thing up, raise it, and re-lay it. 
Consummate Clear Laker that I am, I still have a souvenir chunk of the original Space Center Boulevard, not the one that people drive on today.  Here you can see a piece of virgin concrete with the characteristic textured top.  But observe the unusual bright white radiance - no public tire ever touched this driving surface. 

You might think I'm an absolute nerd for keeping this, but I bet if I put it on eBay, I would do well, because it's a piece of local lore literally in mint condition.  There's a small but passionate group of Clear Lakers who take their Clear Lakeness very seriously.  Maybe one day I'll donate it to an auction to raise money for a charity. 
While Harris County got all that engineering and construction business sorted out and fixed, a perfectly good four-lane concrete arterial sat there closed to traffic for the better part of a year!  Well, it became pure Nirvana to north Clear Lakers.  We used it for jogging, hiking, walking, cycling, dog-training, roller-blading, you name it - I would even see families bringing picnics and basking on the expanse of vacant pavement.  Parents would take their young children there to teach them how to ride two-wheelers - on weekends it was more fun than Kemah.  The temporarily-abandoned and faulty Space Center Boulevard became the best recreational area that Clear Lake ever had, and possibly will ever have.

There was just one problem with our provisional paradise: It was chock full of feral hogs, which would routinely scare the bejesus out of us with their stubby-legged but surprisingly-efficient galloping (and those giant piggie hooves would make the most ominous clattering sound as they raced across that virgin concrete roadway).  Their galloping and their snorting and their general obnoxiousness.  Feral hogs are generally aren't aggressive toward people, but having spent a bit of time in west Texas, I tend to treat them like javelinas, for which the general rules of thumb are (1) just stay away from them, and (2) if you have a dog with you, run for your lives, because dogs will bring out the worst of their aggression. 

And yet even with all the utility-walking I've done, I've never seen one around here.
The fact that we are a dense suburban area is no bar to feral hogs.  Here's an invasion story published just within the past 24 hours. 
I don't know why this is.  I don't know what's keeping them at bay in this area, because conditions are favorable for an invasion.  They have their own hog superhighway in the form of the Interurban easement, and all those dry-bottom retention ponds scattered around this area would be pig-rooting heaven. 

And yet they are conspicuous by their absence.  I guess this will simply remain a mystery for the time being. 
This little piggy didn't go to market - instead, it got loose and created 2.6 million more little piggies in Texas alone.  Look at the tusks on those things and you'll realize even more why we wouldn't want them around. 

In deep east Texas, I've heard that people trap them and castrate the young males, notching their ears before turning them loose again.  That way, future hunters can look at the ears and realize that they're seeing an animal worth eating (males with active testosterone are said to be too tough and gamey).  An interesting and efficient practice of pig-pay-it-forward. 

Image screengrabbed from this source

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