Jacque and Gary Morgan, the founders of Swine Solutions, recall waking up one morning and driving out to where their steel trap sits to find 46 feral hogs slashing, squealing and leaping trying to flee from their confines.
In another instance, one little piggy got loose from its ensnared sounder - a group of female sows and their offspring - but opted to bite Gary’s leg instead of going all the way home. One of his clients who he hauls feral pigs off for, veterinarian Steve Meyerdirk, owns land beleaguered by the bullish swine. He describes the damage sustained from the hogs as if somebody took a tractor to his land.
“Pigs are brilliant. They’re behind dolphins in intellect,” Meyerdirk said. “They know what to do to stay alive, and they never go away.”
The Morgans founded Swine Solutions in February 2016 as a humane way to control burdensome hog havoc that’s wrought destruction to land and plant life at Milan Creek near the intersection of North Locust Street and Pecan Creek Road. The violent nature of feral pigs also threaten the safety of nearby residential areas.
Just controlling feral hog population can be problematic. If there are 100 pigs in one locale, 73 have to be caught over the course of year to just prevent population from growing, Gary said. It takes eliminating 85 percent of a population to start whittling down numbers.
The Morgan’s own six-foot trap, which has a diameter of 30 feet, weighs approximately 750 lbs and breaks down into modular panels for customization and convenience. It holds a feeder that drops hog feed to lure feral pigs inside, and once the motion-sensing camera detects movement, it sends an alert to their smartphones where they can watch a live video feed before deciding to rapidly drop the steel doors.
They favor the trapping method of maintaining feral pig population opposed to using warfarin, a pharmaceutical that slowly and painfully kills feral pigs over the course of about four days, turning their innards blue. Concern surrounding warfarin has come to the forefront after Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller laid out his plan to initiate a "Hog Apocalypse" against the some 2 million hogs in Texas with the toxin.
The Morgans, two hunters, hunt not merely to kill, but to feed themselves, their family and friends. They believe their self-sustaining hunting and that of many others they know is jeopardized by a pesticide with potentially harmful effects.
“We eat what we harvest. I don’t want to put a product on my plate that raises concern,” Jacque said. “Warfarin poses a danger -- I don’t buy it.”
With just his own trap in Milam Creek, Gary has rounded up about 600 pigs in the past year, sending them to holders who then ship them overseas to be slaughtered. While feral hogs are pests, Gary said he wants to see the population controlled, not eliminated.
Warfarin, however, poses a threat to what the two call a developing market for hunters in spite of a threatening hog population. While Miller’s advocacy spotlighted hogs as an issue, total annihilation of them rubs Gary and other opponents the wrong way.
“He opened a lot of people’s eyes and made them focus on pigs, but what he did isn’t the solution,” Gary said regarding Miller’s proposed extermination methods.
Warfarin also complicates controlling population due to the slow, extended death it initiates. Because landowners can’t gauge exactly when hogs will die from ingesting it, using warfarin would mean they have to constantly be on the lookout for carcasses so they can bury them at least 18 inches beneath the ground, as Texas law mandates.
The drug may also threaten other wildlife landowners don’t want to control.
Meyerdirk, who knows the effects of warfarin in other animals, described the drug as dubious and malevolent when ingested. In dogs, he said one immediate symptom is bloody diarrhea -- worse symptoms plague feral pigs.
“All in all, it’s not a really good decision,” Meyerdirk said. “I don’t know if warfarin would pass through meat, but I wouldn’t be the one to eat it and find out.”
The Morgans and others like them favor trapping over shooting wild hogs for its discretion and ability to mass capture. If one pig ends up getting killed from a shot, the others will run off, they say, evading human interaction and continue ravaging land.
Were there a poison with less severe consequences, Gary said he would back it and adopt it.
“If they invent the right poison, I will be one of the first in line to get licensed and apply it,” Gary said. “Warfarin -- no."
MATT PAYNE can be reached at 940-566-6845.