True Green

TEXAS FRESHWATER by Matt Williams
March 25, 2016
SHOOTING DOLPHINS and other strange saltwater management ideas by Chester Moore
March 25, 2016

The Pig Problem 

I’ve seen them while hunting Rio Grande turkeys in the spring, my back pressed squarely up against an oak tree, hoping that they wouldn’t scare off a mature gobbler.

I’ve seen them while hunting whitetails in the fall, raiding deer feeders and devouring all the corn aimed primarily at attracting a different species.

I’ve seen them while hunting bobwhites in the winter, scaring off sounder after sounder as the pointing dogs kicked up furry critters instead of feathered coveys.

I’ve even seen them curiously looking on from the bank while I fished along the Texas coast during the summer.

Simply put, we Texans have a pig problem, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

The main concern from the rise in hog numbers is the damage they cause, specifically as a result of rooting and trampling that makes those associated areas unsuitable for crop production or livestock grazing.

Feral hogs also are a direct competitor for any forage they can reach, which even includes other wildlife such as ground-nesting birds and their eggs, biologists say.

Here’s a passage from a TPWD report, which pretty well sums up just how prodigious feral hogs are at being the most invasive species we will ever see: “Feral hogs compete directly with livestock as well as game and nongame wildlife species for food. However, the main damage caused to livestock and wildlife is indirect destruction of habitat and agriculture commodities,” the report opines.

“Rooting and trampling activity for food can damage agricultural crops, fields and livestock feeding and watering facilities. Often wildlife feeders are damaged or destroyed. They also destabilize wetland areas, springs, creeks and tanks by excessive rooting and wallowing. In addition to habitat destruction and alteration, hogs can destroy forestry plantings and damage trees.”

And then there’s this final portion of the report, which shows how hogs even have a knack for being detrimental to some of our most prized game species: “While not active predators, wild hogs may prey on fawns, young lambs and kid goats. If the opportunity arises, they may also destroy and consume eggs of ground nesting birds, such as turkeys and quail.”

Another concern cited by biologists is the possibility of diseases being spread to livestock and other wildlife. Though the diseases from feral hogs don’t pose a significant threat to humans, the notable illnesses that have been documented in feral hog populations include swine brucellosis, tuberculosis, bubonic plague and anthrax. Feral hogs also are known to harbor a variety of external parasites, including ticks and fleas, which also can carry diseases, so use latex or surgical gloves when possible if you’re cleaning one.

However, for all the negatives associated with these swine—and as you can see there are plenty—the two great things about feral hogs for hunters is that they’re among the most challenging and wily game animals you’ll ever find, and they can be cooked up in countless ways. That’s what biologists and land managers hope for, that Texas hunters continue to rack up the harvest totals. That’s something with which we’re proficient.

Why not, since they can be hunted all year without bag limits using the most liberal of means and methods. The best part about pursuing feral hogs is that it plays right into the hands of the average hunter, with costs much lower than other trophy game animals.

“Pork chopping” and the helicopter ride can be costly, running into the thousands of dollars based on flight time. However, there are plenty of day lease options and public hunting options tailor-made to bringing home the bacon.

There are some great public hunting options on multiple Wildlife Management Areas. For just the $48 cost of a public hunting permit, you can have access to roughly 1 million acres of land to hunt hogs on this year. The great part is that with such a proliferation of pork, you almost can’t go wrong in picking the right public hunt option for you and your family.

It’s no secret that we’ve got too many hogs, and it’s likely only going to get worse before it even remotely gets better. However, it’s also no secret that they offer a great hunting experience and an affordable one, too.

 Gulf Center Approved 

The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents recently approved the establishment of the Texas OneGulf Center at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi within the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies. Texas OneGulf is the first and only multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary consortium in Texas combining the expertise of top marine science and health institutions to focus on the physical Gulf environment and the interactions of humans with that environment.

It is one of two approved Centers of Excellence designated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury under the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies (RESTORE) of the Gulf Coast States Act.

The RESTORE Act was passed in 2012 in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010, and it directs penalties into a trust fund that supports efforts to restore and protect the environment and economy in the Gulf Coast region.

TPWD Exec Earns National Recognition

Ross Melinchuk, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Deputy Executive Director for Natural Resources, was selected as the Ducks Unlimited 2016 Wetland Conservation Achievement Award winner in the State/Provincial Agency Employee category.

The award was presented during the 81st North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference held in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Melinchuk was selected for his significant and long-term contributions to the conservation of North America‘s wetlands and waterfowl resources for more than three decades. 

“Ross has focused his career on facilitating and increasing wetlands conservation across North America,” said DU Chief Conservation Officer Paul Schmidt. “He has personally made significant and meaningful contributions from the Canadian Prairies to the Texas Gulf Coast and wintering areas in Mexico, and he continues to do so. There is no question that he is very deserving of this award,” 

Ross Melinchuk

Born and raised in the Canadian prairie province of Saskatchewan, the land of the living skies, Melinchuk developed a love of waterfowl, wildlife and their natural habitats from the start. Armed with two degrees in wildlife science, he dove into work for the Saskatchewan Environment and Renewable Resources Department in 1980.

Melinchuk really hit his stride when the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) emerged, and he became the Saskatchewan department’s first NAWMP Coordinator. In this position, his natural talents and the people skills for which he is so well-known became evident to many.  

His talents in pulling together diverse coalitions and partnerships along with his ability to work productively with state agencies were noticed by others. He subsequently served as the first NAWMP Coordinator for the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (now AFWA).

Melinchuk played a particularly important role in shepherding the expansion of AFWA’s State Contributions to NAWMP/NAWCA Projects in Canada Program. In this role, he saddressed the challenge of generating the non-federal matching fund requirements of NAWCA. His efforts demonstrated the promise and great success of delivering wetland habitat conservation through partnerships.

Melinchuk became Ducks Unlimited’s NAWMP Coordinator in 1992, and he remained with the world leader in wetlands conservation for 17 years. 

In 1995, Melinchuk relocated to DU’s Southern Regional Office where, in addition to continued focus on the state contributions to Canada program, he contributed his great talents in coalition-building to a wide variety of efforts.l These were focused on the end goal of conserving wetlands and other waterfowl habitats across the South. 

In 2003, recognizing the need for sound policy to grow wetland conservation, Melinchuk put his people skills to work providing strategic guidance for public policy work in fifteen states, including Texas. He also continued his commitment to raise funding support for NAWCA projects in partnership with AFWA and state agency leadership. 

In 2009, Melinchuk moved to the Lone Star State and became Deputy Executive Director for Natural Resources for the TPWD and remains there today. In this role, he oversees the department’s Wildlife, Coastal and Inland Fisheries Division. 

 

—Andi Cooper

story by Will Leschper

 

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