Aransas Wildlife Refuge faces wild pig problem

Wild hogs are already gettinginto the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo by Mike Mainhart)

Several National Parks Service sites across the country deal with wild pigs.

The National Park Service is taking a positive initiative to combat wild pig management at specific national park locations. It is well known that Texas, in particular, South Texas, has a wild pig problem. It is hoped that some efforts being made by the park service can be directed towards Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

The refuge encompasses more than 115,000 acres of stunning scenery, diverse plants and wildlife habitat. It is also home to several rare and endangered animals.

One iconic species that arrives at the preserve in late fall is the rare Whooping Crane. They are North America’s tallest bird at 52 inches. By 1937 their population had fallen to just 15 wild birds. Efforts to protect these birds have since increased the population to around 550 wild birds.

Whooping Cranes will lay only two eggs a season. In almost every instance, only one of the young will survive. Therefore it has taken many years for the population to get to the point where they are now.

The cranes spend the summer breeding season in Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada and return to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Aransas County every winter.

The preserve also has approximately 120 miles of coastal shoreline. The uninhabited coastal shores are prime breeding grounds for many sea turtles.

South Texas is home to five species of sea turtles all of which are threatened or endangered and are protected through the United States Endangered Species Act.

Of the world’s seven species of sea turtle, five are in South Texas: the Green Sea Turtle, Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Leatherback Sea Turtle, Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle and Hawksbill Sea Turtle. These turtles live in, reproduce or migrate to the waters and shores of the Texas Gulf Coast.

In a recently published proposal, the National Park Service is seeking a partner to review wild pig management efforts across the agency and to help develop guidance and tools to enhance ongoing efforts.

According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, there are an estimated 6.9 million wild pigs in the United States with three million estimated to be residing in Texas alone. These wild hogs can be found in every county within the state.

Local farmers are constantly combating the wild pig problem in South Texas. Wild pigs are an invasive species that pose a threat to agriculture, ecosystems, wild animals and the health of humans. They multiply fast; a sow can have up to two litters a year with as many as ten piglets per litter. At least 70 percent of the hogs need to be removed from an area just to keep them under control.

Pigs are smart animals, and once pressured in one area, they will move to a safer haven. This can create problems for a refuge such as the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

The National Park Service should be commended for taking steps to address the issue of wild pigs. Hopefully, their ongoing efforts can quickly find a solution to a problem that can have a devastating outcome to our national treasure, the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

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