Feral hogs create an ever-increasing problem for land owners and managers by uprooting soil and plants, plus damaging water quality and wildlife habitat.
These pests have few predators and are extremely intelligent, secretive and adaptable to different environments. They have an acute sense of smell, good hearing and are prolific. Female hogs can reach sexual maturity as young as 3 to 4 months old, but most reach puberty at 1 year. They are capable of having two litters per year that average four to six piglets, although litter size can range from one to 12 piglets, and a sow normally is productive until 4 to 5 years.
“Feral hog populations continue to expand across Texas and the United States,” said James Cathey of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. “The 2012 estimate of approximately 2.6 million wild pigs in Texas is now over seven years old, and population modeling indicated that more than 3 million exotic invasive feral swine could now range across the Lone Star State.
“Much of Texas is considered suitable habitat for feral hogs, therefore, Texans must become more serious about removal of this exotic species.”
To manage feral hogs effectively, landowners and managers must use a combination of control measures which can include snaring, trapping, aerial gunning, using trained dogs and hunting. Each method requires skill and understanding of the animals’ behavior to obtain successful results.
Due to limited space, this article deals with only snaring techniques.
“A snare does not care what it catches; consequently, the person setting it has the responsibility to protect pets, wildlife and livestock by carefully placing the snare only where hogs frequent. Some landowners avoid using snares because they are nondiscriminatory,” Cathey said. “In other trapping methods non-target animals can be released, but snares typically are lethal. Obviously, use of snares is not recommended in suburban neighborhoods, but instead has application in rural landscapes under certain conditions.”
An advantage of snares is that they are relatively inexpensive, quick and easy to set and require very little maintenance. They do not require prebaiting that is necessary for catching hogs in a corral-type trap. In the use of traps, it is important to prebait in order to train hogs to enter. Baiting is required until a trail camera shows the entire sounder in the trap. This could take several days. Hogs that escape traps or those that experience the springing of a trap, may avoid box or corral traps in the future. Snares are used to catch trap-shy hogs.
“One of the disadvantages of snares is that only one hog is caught at a time,” Cathey said. “The rest of the sounder is still at-large, damaging property. Snaring is inappropriate where the risk of capturing nontarget species is high and where anchor points are lacking.
“Another disadvantage is that large hogs can break snares.”
Design and preparation of snares
“An effective snare consists of a 1/8-inch galvanized steel cable with a loop at one end and a heavy swivel at the other end. The swivel is attached to a secure object — fence post, tree or utility pole — and the loop is placed where it will catch a hog when it passes through a confined space. A heavy swivel is required to avoid a captured animal breaking the cable,” Cathey said. “The snare should have a sliding lock device allowing the loop to close but not open easily. Crimp a single ferrule, small nut or other similar hardware to the snare cable to ensure that the loop does not close around the leg of a deer, sheep, goat, calf or other nontarget animal.”
The ferrule or deer stop device should prevent the loop from completely closing, allowing the nontarget animal to pull its leg out of the snare. Deer stops are not required in Texas, but are a good idea to use them because snaring deer is illegal. It is important to understand that most snares are deployed to capture an animal around its neck, not the feet. Using game cameras prior to setting snares can help identify the prevalence of nontarget animals in the area. Only snare wild pigs in hog-specific areas. Wallows, rubs, trails and fence crossings used exclusively by wild pigs are great places to use snares.
Due to the hog’s keen sense of smell, it is important to remove human scent from snares before use. The following three options for scent removal include:
• Boil new snares and extension cables in water with detergent and hang them outdoors for a few months until they turn a dull gray.
• Boil the snares in four tablespoons of baking soda for one hour to age their appearance.
• Dye the snares a dark color by boiling them in brown logwood crystals and dye. Commercial dyes for snares are available from trap supply dealers.
“After boiling snares, keep them free of odors by storing them in a container with cedar boughs, broomweed or other natural smells. Wear clean gloves when handling and setting snares to avoid scent contamination,” Cathey said.
When selecting sites for snares, look for hog crawls under fences around pastures or fields. Crawls are identified by tracks on the trail or coarse, muddy hair caught on the fence. Where fence wire is low to the ground, hogs often push under the fence while bending the bottom wire into a distinguishable arch. A game camera can help determine feral hog behavior and identify optimal sites for snare placement. Mark snare locations so they are easily found to close or remove them after trapping.
“Snared feral hogs (especially large animals) can damage a fence, so don’t fasten snares directly to fence wire. Instead, secure it low on a fence post or other fixed point, or to a large drag,” Cathey said. “A drag is a heavy object such as a large log, uprooted stump or an object of similar weight, and is sometimes used to protect a weak fence or the landscape. To minimize fence damage, check the snares daily and remove any trapped animals.”
It is common practice to tie the swivel end of a snare to a secure anchor point or drag with a doubled or tripled length of wire. Suspend the snare loop with its lower end at the bottom of the fence. To keep the loop open, secure the top with U-shaped wire clips or a single wrap of small gauge copper wire so that the loop pulls free easily when the feral hog passes through it.
A loop of 10 to 12 inches suspended 7 to 8 inches off the ground is required to catch a 30-pound hog. A loop size of 20 inches or more may be required to catch a larger hog. Another benefit of scouting with game cameras is that they show exactly the loop diameter required to catch target hogs. If the snare is not long enough, extend it to full size and use cable extensions to attach it to a fixed point or drag. Steel stakes sometimes are driven into the ground and used as fixed anchors.
“Snares can also be set directly on rubs that hogs are using to scratch and remove parasites. Rubs are found on utility poles, bridge pilings, or trees surrounding wallow areas,” Cathey said. “The advantage of setting snares on rubs is that nontarget species are less likely to roam these areas. Multiple snares are often set in areas where rubs are common, to increase potential for capture.”
When anchoring to a rub tree or utility pole, use a flexible yet durable piece of wire (coat hanger or baling wire) to hang the snare. Bend an inverted S-shape in the hanger wire to give support to the snare. The tail end of the hanger wire sometimes is angled down against the tree or post for extra support and to ensure that it doesn’t slip. When setting the snare, place the sliding lock device either at the 11 o’clock or 1 o’clock position so the snare triggers properly when a hog enters the loop.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department requires a hunting license for capturing or hunting feral hogs for meat consumption or trophy. This requirement is waived if the landowner or lessee, with the landowner’s permission, takes feral hogs that are causing damage to agricultural commodities. It is a good idea to buy a hunting license, however, in the event that nontarget animals are caught. A hunting license is required for taking animals such as bobcats, raccoons and opossums. When using snares to capture feral hogs, follow hunting laws outlined in the Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual and contact the local game warden for more details. Remember to mark snares so they easily are found.
Feral hog populations continue to grow and a continuous control program is required for reducing their damage to property. When used correctly and in the proper situation, snares are one of the effective control measures.
Additional information on snares is found in Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Publication L-5528. Discussions of other trapping methods and a wild pig reporting tool is found at Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute’s new Wild Pig website: wildpigs.nri.tamu.edu/.