Smartphones Help Trappers Wrangle Feral Hogs

Trappers use cameras, smartphones to trap hogs remotely

By Ben Russell
|  Wednesday, Jun 12, 2013  |  Updated 7:17 PM CDT
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Trappers are capturing feral hogs in traps with cameras that link to smartphones so the traps can be triggered remotely.

Ben Russell, NBC 5 News

Trappers are capturing feral hogs in traps with cameras that link to smartphones so the traps can be triggered remotely.

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As feral hogs continue to barrel into suburban and urban areas -- and even into Dallas' city limits -- trappers are turning to smartphone technology to help catch the animals.

Locations such as Kiest Park in Oak Cliff, the Keeton Park Golf Course in Pleasant Grove and White Rock Trail have all seen damage from hogs within the last year, said Don Burns, Dallas parks and recreation project manager.

Osvaldo Rojas, currently the only trapper contracted to capture feral hogs in Dallas, said the hog problem is getting worse.

"The more you trap, the more places you find that need trapping," he said.

Rojas uses large pens equipped with cameras that link to his smartphone to remotely and humanely catch hogs. He then sells the hogs to a meat-processing company.

His contract with the city allows him to keep the proceeds of the sale.

Don Gresham has captured 44 hogs in one night at his family ranch in Forestburg, Montague County, which is approximately 10 miles north of Decatur.

"They destroy everything," he said. "They'll come in, they'll make a field ... look like a plowed field. In Dallas, they're destroying people's yards. They were knocking the air conditioners off of our pad sites up here."

Necessity was the mother of invention for Gresham. He helped to design a 30-foot hog trap that, like the one Rojas uses, employs Web cameras that send live video to his smartphone, allowing him to trigger the trapdoor with the touch of a button.

His company, Goin Fencing, now sells the traps to farmers around the country.

In the Dallas area, feral hogs travel from place to place along the banks of the Trinity River or, as Burns describes it, "Hog Highway." The animals use the Trinity's creeks and tributaries as exits to access suburban and urban neighborhoods, he said.

According to estimates from researchers at Texas A&M University, the number of feral hogs in the state may range from 1.8 million to 3.4 million, with the population growing between 18 percent and 21 percent each year.

The Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources study also estimates that feral hogs cause $52 million in damage to agriculture in the state every year.

There are no known estimates for how many hogs are living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Part of the problem in reducing the numbers of feral hogs is that they reproduce at an exponential rate. A sow can birth a litter of six to eight pigs twice per year, and those piglets can become fertile at the age of six months.

Dallas recently opened up a bidding process for more trappers to help corral the problem. The city expects to select a trapper and have that company on the ground and working by the end of the summer, Burns said.

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