By Aaron Sumrall, PhD
Spring is in full swing, and the morphology of Mother Nature is never more awe-inspiring than the rebirth of pretty much everything. Those of us in the pursuit of feral hog management can, and often do, find this the most difficult time to trap. Feral hogs, like all wild species, have been in the doldrums of winter eating just about whatever is put in front of them in order to just stay alive. Spring brings about a buffet that has not been seen since last spring, and critters are basking in the bountiful nutrition.
Spring does pose a quandary for feral hog trappers. Do we keep trapping? Do we take a break? Do we reassess what has happened over the winter? All are excellent questions with the same answer: Yes! Let’s take these questions one at a time.
Do we keep trapping? If you are in the more northern states occupied by pigs, you still have a good last push to remove pigs before bud-break. If you are in a situation like much of Texas with horrible drought conditions, definitely keep trapping. Drought conditions are excellent for catching hungry pigs.
Do we take a break from catching pigs? Well, that is going to depend on your situation. If you have the luxury of a wet spring and everything is greening up like it should then, yes, a short break may be a good idea. That does not mean to do nothing. If catch efficiency is going down due to other plentiful food sources, don’t educate pigs by throwing everything at them to coax them to a trap location when there are other more nutritious options available. Forcing pigs will only educate them. If you decide to take a short break from “rehabilitating” pigs, it is a great time to do a few other things. One is to move locations if necessary. While the ground is a bit softer than in summer, put posts in the ground where you suspect you could be catching pigs in the summer. Don’t start baiting just yet, though. Wait until the flush of spring starts to wane and natural nutritional quality starts to drop. Also, during this hiatus, you can go through your Brig and take care of any maintenance that may need attention and put a game plan in place for the summer.
Do we reassess what has happened with regard to catching pigs over the winter? Yes! Reflecting on the experiences of catching pigs during the winter will help set the plan for next winter. Record what you did and how pigs responded. It’s difficult to remember the specific details from one winter to the next, so log the experience as an outline for the next plan. Start observing other native species. As a result of catching pigs, are you seeing more deer fawns, turkey poults, quail chicks, and/or wildflowers? Yes, I said wildflowers. But before you start next-level laughing, think about what the nutritional base for the deer, turkey, and quail are. A wildflower may be a weed to us, but for deer, it is ice cream! New poults and chicks need wildflowers early in life as easy hiding grounds and then later as a food source.
If you get stagnant in pig removal, you will lose the fight. There is always something that needs to be done in order to stay ahead in the fight, even if it is not specifically removing pigs for a short time. The takeaway for spring is, if you push pigs too hard when there are numerous other natural, highly nutritious food resources, you will educate pigs, making them harder to catch the remainder of the year. A short break may be exactly what is needed. Oh, and you may want to add a Brig or two to your arsenal.
About the Author: Aaron Sumrall holds a PhD in Wildlife Ecology from Texas A&M University. He is the Director of Outreach, Education and Research at Pig Brig Trap Systems and has 20+ years of experience in wildlife and animal science management.