When it comes to invasive wild pigs, Texas is No. 1.
There are at least 2 million feral hogs roaming the state – about half the animal’s national population. Authorities say the hogs cause hundreds of millions of dollars a year in damage to property and agriculture. But, despite those numbers, hogs are usually thought to be confined to rural parts of Texas.
A quick glance at Carrie Moore’s front lawn will show you that’s not the case.
Moore lives off Springdale Road just north of Highway 290. Earlier this month, she and her chihuahua BB were investigating what the hogs had done to her Saint Augustine grass.
“It’s all rutted up and it’s just a mess,” Moore said as BB sniffed the tilled soil.
Neighbors report the hogs started coming out last fall. Many say they never minded the animals when they stuck to the greenbelt around Walnut Creek, but the recent damage to landscaping and gardens has crossed a line.
“I’m gonna see if I can get a shot at them,” Moore says she told a neighbor recently. “He said, ‘Well don’t shoot me!’”
These houses sit just outside city limits. Inside the city, shooting a gun is illegal. Even though the rules stop at the city line, Moore says, the hogs do not. They seem to be using the creek as a pathway to get around the East Side of town.
That raises the question: Just how many pigs live in Austin, right under our noses?
A request for pig-related 311 calls went nowhere; the city said it doesn’t keep those records.
But Austinites were happy to share their sightings on Twitter. The reports came from parts of town near green spaces, like the Stephenson Nature Preserve, Old Spicewood Springs Road and the Barton Creek Greenbelt, as well as more central areas like Tarrytown.
“Is that a thing? Are there just hogs in Tarrytown that I didn’t know about?” Shelby Janner says she wondered after seeing a massive pig a few years ago.
Taylor Young, an operations manager at Austin Discovery School near the Colorado River, says the East Side campus saw a lot of hog damage starting last fall.
“We would be coming to work in the morning and there would be a couple that would clearly be hit by cars on [FM] 969,” he says. “So they were definitely getting closer to population centers than we had ever seen them.”
News reports also document pig-related car accidents and homeowners clashing with hogs in West Austin. The accounts have been coming from all over, but there seemed to be a lot of new sightings in far East Austin – from the Colorado River all the way up north of 290.