Feral Hog Control
Guide to Better Traps, Technique, and Environment
By LeRoy Moczygemba
There is more to trapping feral hogs or wild hogs and wild boar than merely getting a trap or some cattle panels and T-posts as a means of controlling this pesky issue. This Guide seeks to examine the different types of hog traps, how best to utilize them, and additional techniques that enhance trapping success. It is based on the assumption (through visual observation) that cage trapping, especially if done in conjunction with controlled or guided exclusion, offers the best opportunity to gain some control of the feral hog population. While considering this material, one should keep in mind:
Rule No. 1 – There are always exceptions to the Rule – both positive and negative. One can have success with some ill-planned activity while some of the best-laid plans are for naught – and everywhere in between. (People like to point to noticeable exceptions as success.)
Rule No 2 – Try to learn something about the hogs in the trapping area and set some goals. Where do the hogs reside, travel, and feed? Determine whether to Play, Manage, or Control.
Rule No. 3 - It is not always about the hogs you trapped, but sometimes about those you could have and should have trapped.
Rule No. 4 – Be a good neighbor. Everyone has to do his part – total exclusion or chasing the hogs away (with dogs) are only temporary solutions and merely send problems down the road – they will be back – next time probably more numerous. Cooperate (within reason) with neighbors trying to control a hog problem. Doing nothing is not an option.
Rule No. 5 - Feral hogs learn to be trap smart in one of two ways: they were trapped and either escaped or turned loose (not recommended but done); or, they saw other hogs get trapped (and sometimes pass this information along to other hogs).
Rule No. 6 - Hungry feral hogs will eat almost anything (they're omnivorous) but given an opportunity they can be selective.
A discussion of feral hogs requires an understanding of the species and related issues:
Identifying the species:
- 1. Feral hogs - the term collectively applies to Eurasian wild boars (i.e., Russian boars), domesticated hogs that have become feral (wild), and hybrids of these two.
- 2. Javelina (collared peccary) belongs to a different family and is not a feral hog. (It is a game animal in Texas and not part of this presentation.)
Feral hogs are well established in Texas, and because of their adaptability, reproductive capability, and skill at survival, they are here to stay. The value of feral hogs is a matter of opinion. Landowners may be eager to get rid of them. Hunters look forward to having them show up on their hunting grounds. Entrepreneurs enjoy the economic returns from feral hog hunting fees and the sale of captured hogs. Biologists have ecological concerns as feral swine interact with and harm native wildlife species. Whatever one’s opinion may be, the management of feral hogs should be part of any property management plan. (Mark E. Mapston)
Identifying issues for dealing with feral hogs:
Do feral hogs have an impact on this land or agricultural operation? Is it Positive or Negative and what options are available for dealing with them?
What is it worth or does it cost to manage or control the feral hog population? What damage do feral hogs cause, what will it cost to implement control activities, and what is the anticipated gain? Here are some options to consider:
- 1. Hunting for economic advantage and limited trapping associated with (deer) hunting
2. Just plain shooting or aerial hunting (has advantages and disadvantages)
3. Dogs – Have their limitations and criticism
4. Exclusion (fencing to keep them out/in – works to some extent - maintenance issue)
(See controlled or guided exclusion below)
5. Snares (indiscriminate on catching whatever passes and are limited to individual animals – not recommended)
6. Cage trapping – best overall method for management and control
Box & Pen traps (Round, Permanent and Portable) are included in this category.
Hunting, in some ways, sets a standard for price to achieve for feral hogs. The problem is that hunters willing to pay top dollar (are not that numerous but growing), do not account for very many hogs, and not all properties and landowners are not suited for hunting. Most of the time the cost of hogs (or price) should be measured in terms of damage to croplands, pastures (especially hay fields) and vehicle accidents with resulting damage, injuries and fatalities. Some landowners want high prices to allow trapping when, in fact, they should consider paying trappers to remove the hogs or at least allow trapping for the hogs at no cost. The economic gain from selling the hogs or use by individuals and their friends is minimal compared with the actual cost of trapping and benefits of reducing damage (sometimes on other properties).
Consider DAMAGE inflicted and the cost of fuel; wear on vehicles, cost of traps and TIME
There is some question whether the feral hog population can be controlled and one of the principal reasons is people who form obstacles. These people may have an affinity for the hogs and may have stocked them (perhaps some time ago). They like the hogs and provide a safe harbor for them and may resist control – even on adjoining properties. Others may have an inflated value on the price of hogs and want some astronomical sum to trap. Hunting may not be a viable option on these properties, but they want the same price - often these people have property ideal for trapping although not necessarily for hunting. Others (usually absentee landlords) do not want anyone on their property and basically do not care about their neighbors. Again, these properties may offer the best areas for trapping but access is denied. These are in addition to criminal activities such as stealing traps, vandalizing traps, stealing hogs from traps, and turning hogs out of traps.
Try to quantify the extent of the problem and census of the feral hog population.
- 1. Mixed population with numerous sows and (smaller) pigs, some boars mixed and/or
- 2. Number of medium to large solitary boars (boars do more damage and are more difficult to capture). Signs of individual boar hogs are usually represented by a number of large holes rooted in the dirt, many times in a same general area.
- 3. Estimate the size of the different hog groupings and number of different groups. Are the hogs in small groups of (for example: four to twelve hogs) or are the hogs in larger groups of thirty-to-fifty or more? Observe damage being done or the trails and other signs of hogs. Seeing or hearing of reports that fifty to eighty (plus) hogs in a field does not indicate that the hogs travel together or if they come from the same direction.
Do the feral hogs reside on this (your) property or do they travel to and/or through it?
- 1. Is there a Routine? Is it daily or different day intervals? The hogs may travel a trail every night, but often they rotate their feeding habits and travel to an area as little as once a week (sometimes even less often). If the hogs were on the trail last night they may not be back for another week or some lesser/different interval.
- 2. Look at damage in fields or pastures, trails, water holes, and wallows (& scat)
What are related issues:
- 1. Type of terrain and accessibility
(Brushy, rocky, sandy, any roadways, weather accessibility, & any other impediments)
- 2. Other species to consider:
(Cattle, particularly little calves and deer in pastures)
It is easier to trap hogs moving on their trails particularly to feeding grounds than when they are spreading into the fields or other areas where they roam as they forage for food. Trapping at damage sites is least productive and should be avoided where possible. At damage sites the trapper is competing with what the hogs are seeking and must lure the hogs into the trap. Also, hogs are meandering in the area and it is more difficult to capture several at once until they used to the trap, which takes time, and the hogs can do considerable damage before then. It also allows other hogs to see those trapped and may tell them about the dangers of the trap.
Controlled or guided exclusion may be defined as implementing practices of directing hogs toward accessible areas or previous trails where traps can be better used to capture the hogs. Maintain roadways, fencerows, and grassy, weedy or small brushy areas (where practical) to help identify feral hog traffic and aid in capture/control activities. Using chemical and/or mechanical means to reduce or eliminate vegetation or brush in these areas aids control by gaining better access, observing hog activities, and making it safer by reducing debris that can obscure hazards such as (poisonous) snakes and tire spikes. Use of chemical controls is best illustrated with electric fencing in which an area immediately adjacent to and surrounding the fence must be maintained with reduced vegetation to allow the electric fence to operate efficiently. This is applicable to irrigated fields with center-pivots, as well. Many times there are areas left in weeds, which are not irrigated. Control of hogs should be considered at a point before they enter the weeds than after they enter and start to spread into the field. These areas and those outside (adjacent to the fence lines) should be controlled with chemical sprays, shredding and/or plowing to help identify hog traffic lanes and provide for better trapping opportunities.
These practices can aid in controlled or guided exclusion by better directing the hogs toward open areas or previous trails where traps can be used to capture the hogs. This practice can be expanded to other areas such as attaching hog wire or netting wire to existing fences to keep the hogs from crossing an area or fence at will. Reduced vegetation will allow the hogs to find previous trails and gaps easier without trying to create new holes or trails as often. Restricting or directing hog traffic greatly enhances the trapping experience and aids in the number of hogs trapped. Kinds of chemicals most frequently used may be found on a web site or publication from the Extension Service or a County Extension Agent. Some chemicals require a Pesticide Applicator’s License and always follow the label directions on any chemical use.
Why trapping? Can be dangerous – need to have plan and equipment for catching, loading, and transporting the hogs – Plan for the largest issue. One does not know when a large boar enters the scene when anticipating (small) pigs.
Strategy for trapping – Catching and then what are you going to do with a “tiger by the tail.” Trapping without an exit or use program is no strategy. The process must include capturing desired animal population and transporting to use location.
There are many types of hog traps built for different purposes and with different materials. These can be large or small portable, stationary, or somewhere in between – some portable traps are difficult to move. The most common type of approach is to build one from “Materials on-Hand.” The person has some materials a welder slaps together and makes a hog trap. The trapper then tries to manage the trap. Stationary pens (usually round pens) are built to stay in place for an extended length of time. These traps are usually designed to have a capacity for a larger number of hogs and generally are constructed without tops for ease of construction and perhaps to allow deer to escape should they get caught. These traps require considerable time and energy to construct and even more to move.
By and large, most hog traps in a particular environment will capture some hogs, but what is the real purpose of wanting to trap feral hogs and will the trap satisfy those requirements?
Play – Manage – or Control – Set some goals or objectives for trapping
- 1. Meat or added sport value (trap at hunting camp or on the range) (Playing)
a. Capture of live animals avoids certain issues
b. Allows review of captured animals (what, when, & where you want to process)
2. Management allows to select the number and types of hogs processed or allowed out
3. Control (Scorched Earth) – take all of the hogs
There are NINE (9) aspects to consider in building or selecting a trap and the setting.
What kind of Time, Energy, and Resources or lack thereof does someone have for building or buying and then and managing a hog trap?
- Time – how much time can the trapper devote to setting up the trap and moving it?
Is this an occasional or frequent activity and on your land or someone else’s?
Energy - What is the capacity (or strength) of the trapper to move and/or set up the materials or added mechanical advantages?
Resources – what access does the trapper have to materials, welders, help and money?
Will hogs help to pay for the endeavor? How does the trapper obtain money for the hogs?
What are the needs and/or desires for safety, capacity, and portability of a trap?
- Safety - requires better materials and usually welded traps or panels.
Capacity - or size of traps is determined by the population being trapped.
Portability – is normally a preference but sometimes a necessity.
When building or selecting and then setting the trap, what to do with the hogs when trapped:
Shoot, Wrestle, or Load.
Materials and Construction – Best Bet
4”x 4” steel panels (smaller mesh) is better - hogs have less injury and capture more piglets
-Too many piglets can escape through the upper portion of hog panels
- Consider cost & weight of 4 or 6 gauge panels (4 gauge is recommended)
1¼ inch 14-gauge square tubing may be the best framing material for lightweight strength
Types of Traps – Mobile and/or Stationary
- 1. Design of your choice with materials at hand
2. Box trap with rooter doors (want split or control rooters not big ones after closing)
3. Box trap or pen trap with sliding or drop (guillotine) gate (catch only what is in trap)
4. Box trap with hinged swing gate (continuous entry with spring or weight controls)
5. Round pens – may have continuous entry spring panel, swing or guillotine gates
6. Portable pens – (larger) combination of above (with deer excluder)
Box traps are self-contained units with all sides, top, and perhaps bottom included in one-piece construction. Only doors or gates may need to be added/attached at the site.
Pen traps or round pens are assembled or constructed on-site from pieces or panels.
Portable pen traps are assembled on-site using pins to fasten panels and gates in place.
Based on experience and observation, general improvements to trapping should include: larger and more portable traps (than typical box traps), with larger initial entry gates, set on trails where possible, and include back doors for loading out the hogs and managing the traps. They should have tops (at least in corners) but no bottoms (include root out bars except bottoms if continuously trapping in deep sand where the bottoms can be covered).
Gates or entry doors: Various kinds – for access and containment
Rooter Door, Standard Hinged or Swing Gate with spring or dead-drop, Guillotine, Drop/Flop
Make the traps accessible and comfortable for hogs to enter and then keep them in: Entice the hogs to enter – do not make it challenging. Feral hogs will root into the most difficult places and inflict much damage, but on their terms and time. In trapping, the trapper wants the hog to enter on the trapper’s clock. This means that trap doors (openings) should be large enough to accommodate the anticipated hog traffic. A group of hogs moves like a blob especially when they start feeding (on a trail) so a larger initial entry door is better than the size currently used in most (box) traps.
For box traps the initial opening should be 36 to 48 inches wide and at least 36 inches high. Entries at least 40 inches high are recommended
For pen traps, the initial opening should be from 5 to 10 feet wide and at least 40 inches high.
Once the entry gate has shut, any gate device that allows additional entry should be limited in size to the hog entering. This means rooter door should be split into sections with each approximately 12 inches wide or less. Vertical gates should be spring-loaded with room for any hogs inside to pass the entry point as another hog enters. The entry gate should close securely and have a design to prevent a hog from rooting out the gate from the inside. Entry gates opening against a side of the trap or rooters adjacent to a side should be avoided, if possible. These entries should be toward the middle of the trap. The problem with hogs escaping through the doorway usually occurs with the larger hogs.
Tops: control escape over the top, especially when hogs can crowd in a corner
– but (should) allow deer to escape (Round pens and pen traps with deer excluders).
Purpose of floor - is to keep hogs from rooting OUT and some safety
Bottoms – (None), but root-out bars can be included (6 to 8” inside the wall of trap).
These can be welded in place in box traps or inserted in sand in pen traps.
The floor should not be too obvious to tell hogs this is uncomfortable or unsafe.
(Floors are drawbacks on too many traps – catch some, but it’s what you do not catch).
Solid floor in trap to allow ramp up as trailer; hook up to pickup and off to “somewhere” is better than the thick metal panels used in many trap. If a metal panel floor is desired, the panel size should be 6” x 6” or larger – care should be exercised to cover the floor.
Exit or loading strategy – Secondary gate on side opposite the entry allows for loading out the hogs (alive), managing the trap for baiting, and providing more options for setting the trap. It needs to be designed into the system. The exit gate should be raised a few inches with a bar closing the extra space to keep rooted dirt from clogging the exit gate for loading.
Loading ramps or chutes:
- 1. Designed to attach to trailer and wench on top for travel – limitations on setting the trap
2. Designed inside the trap – limitations similar to chute loading
3. Panels (framed) that attach to trap and trailer with ramp included – allows more options
Back straight at trap exit gate, along side or at angle to gate – can be used with chute
4. Cart that drops to ground level and allows a ground level entry into the crate that is then loaded (winched) onto a trailer (frame). (Some traps are designed as this combination.)
Setting the traps and considerations for loading: Fields, vacant pasture or Cattle and deer
- 1. Setting traps on trails is the most desirable place for trapping hogs and as close as feasible to a location where hogs start traveling to fields or feeding grounds. (This assumes one knows the direction the hogs move; otherwise perpendicular to the trail and hope the bait works.) Traps should blend into the surroundings as much as possible or set close to fence line crossings. The traps set on trails should be set immediately to capture hogs. If traps are set in areas where hogs roam and feed, then the traps should be baited for a time to make sure (several) hogs enter the trap before setting it.
2. With cattle in area one may need to add panel extensions to fence or build pen around traps to keep the cattle, particularly calves from entering the trap
(Load out on other side is most important consideration for access.)
3. If preventing trapping of deer is a consideration, use pen traps with deer excluders or use sour baits, which should help keep deer out of box traps.
4. Near water holes, wallows, utility poles, or other rubs, are areas of consideration but often hogs may travel to these places at various times of the day, so checking traps may require a different routine. Some are good locations for large pen traps.
Controlled or Guided Exclusion: If the hogs pour into a field from too many trails, consider erecting a partial hog-proof fence to guide the hogs to reduce entrances, i.e., have a hog opening in the fence at certain intervals or in good catch areas, perhaps every 100 yards or so. This may be done by attaching hog-wire on the (existing) fence or using electric fence. This is different from total exclusion since the hogs can enter the field and will not try to break holes in existing fences as easily. When a crop is not growing, hogs should be allowed into the field at the entrances. They can be trapped easier at these controlled entrances. The cost of these fences is much less than one for total exclusion. Control of vegetation on these fences can help direct the hogs to designated entrances.
Trappers may consider negotiating with landowners to monitor their traps to tell them when they have hogs, which would reduce travel time and save fuel. In some cases the landowner may provide the traps. Just removing the hogs is a task, so some landowners may want help.
The purpose of baiting a trap is to advertise to hogs that a product equal to or greater in value than what they are pursuing is available now at this location so they will enter the trap.
Use small pans (not to exceed 4½ inches high and 12 inches in diameter) tied to the wire between the trap and object holding the trap open to trip the trigger on the traps. This allows greater flexibility in the kinds of baits used, timing the fall and reducing the amount of wire in the trap for hogs to tangle. Also, raccoons can feed from the pan and not trip the trap (often). Small pans can be used at the entrance to the trap and elsewhere in the trap itself to keep wet bait (such as sour corn) moist.
Wild hogs will eat most anything, particularly hungry hogs, but they can be selective, given the opportunity. Locating traps on trails or in areas hogs traverse can expand the opportunity to use more standard baits since the hogs will take good bait if more readily available, but consider - Season of the year and other sources of feed (particularly green corn and the desire of hogs to root in moist areas for certain needs) as possible competition and adjust accordingly.
There are no known products available on the market labeled for control of hogs by killing them. Hogs can eat several items without harming themselves that are toxic to certain other livestock (and even seem to be attracted to them such as seed corn and peanuts). These items should not be used as bait. Collateral damage from poisoning other animals such as cattle, game animals, and protected animals and birds could be devastating and illegal. Also, a hog may ingest some poison and go over to the next pasture where someone may shoot or trap the hog and use it for food. There are good baits available that are safe. Trap design, trapping technique, and improvement in the trapping environment are equally important in this process.
Types of baits and attractants:
Corn is the basic staple for most bait, but regular shelled corn does not have much of an odor to attract hogs at any distance. Other products are added or the corn is soured by adding water and perhaps beer or yeast. Other produce that hogs will eat can be used, as well. Baits or attractants can be classified into the following categories.
- 1. Smelly attractants (Sour corn, burnt corn, hog cakes, sour mash, with beer or items in fermentation) – tells hogs it’s there. There is less chance that deer will be attracted with sour smelling baits. Wet bait should be set in pans or plates in and adjacent to the trap to help maintain the moisture in the bait. Some should be spilled outside the pans. Shallow pans as a trigger mechanism allow other animals such as raccoons to eat some bait without tripping the trap (often).
2. Sweet attractants – berry attractants, commercial, jello, kool aid, etc.
(Compassion for others with odors)
3. Live and/or artificial hogs
Use of live hogs to attract others can be effective, particularly in certain circumstances, but they should not be used unless adequate shelter (from the sun), water, and feed are provided. This takes time and effort, but can be accomplished easier in cooler weather by caging the bait hogs in another trap adjacent to the catch trap and providing some cover from the sun along with feed and water. It may be beneficial and cost effective in some of the cattle feeding activities where hogs are a regular occurrence to build a holding pen for hogs within the trap. Because of the priority order in hog sounders, bait hogs may be tailored to the target population. Use of a smaller sow without pigs is preferable. A sounder may ignore weaned pigs, at times, but some hogs may rush to smaller pigs. Young but mature bars will attract larger boars. The use of a sow in heat can be effective in trapping mature boars not easily trapped. One of the issues not understood is how hogs learn about traps when they see other hogs trapped, so use of live hogs can tell the others something about being trap smart.
Artificial hogs are commercial products for hogs in heat, rank boar and other game attractants that can be used in lieu of the real hog. These can be more cost and time effective than the live hog and provide more opportunities. Even urine or scat from hogs thrown into a trap can help. The issue is that not all of the products meet the advertisements, fail in quality, and are too costly to use for the return on the hogs trapped. For example, if the urine from a hog in estrus is of excellent quality, only 12 to 18 CCs of the product should attract a boar within 25 yards or slightly more depending on the weather. It is advisable to apply these in the late afternoon or evening. Using the quantities (with drippers) some suggest make the price of the attractant too expensive for the probable return of most hogs trapped. This makes it more of a hunting adventure in terms of cost.
Consult appropriate State game regulations for any license or permit requirements for trapping or taking feral hogs. In Texas, check the Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual Hunting and Fishing Regulations. Generally, in Texas a valid hunting license is required to trap or take feral hogs. Also, check the State animal health authority for any health requirement or permits. In Texas this is the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC).
Have fun and safe and successful trapping.
A copy of Feral Hogs in Texas by Mark E. Mapston, District Supervisor, Texas Cooperative Extension, Wildlife Services, may be obtained through www.feralhogs.tamu.edu. Go to Coping with Feral Hogs. The publication can be downloaded for free or purchased in hard copy for a fee.
The views expressed herein are those solely of the writer. They are based on experience, discussion with other persons dealing with feral hogs, and the printed material cited herein, which includes related materials cited within that information. Much of the information is not new to feral hog studies and trapping proposals, except for some of the trap modifications, techniques and twists in the presentation. It is presented here as a way to illustrate the writer’s experience in this endeavor to promote trapping as a control methodology.