Hunt for wild hogs: Refuge to close for sharpshooter cull of feral pigs

HARLINGEN — The Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, which used sharpshooters to cull nilgai antelope this summer, is setting its sights on feral hogs.

Officials announced the refuge would close to visitors Sept. 7 due to safety concerns when sharpshooters in helicopters attempt to reduce the numbers of the invasive species.

So just what are the wild pigs doing?

“Around the refuge, it is very evident when you see where hogs are causing damage, rooting up the edges of our wetlands and destroying the native grasslands remaining along the edge of the wetlands,” Jonathan Moczygemba, one of the refuge’s wildlife biologists, said yesterday.

“It’s all very costly and time-consuming for the refuge to continue to repair this damage,” he added.

The feral hog cull is similar to one the refuge conducted in July to reduce the number of nilgai, which resulted in the killing of 81 antelope.

The primary reason to cull nilgai is they, unlike feral hogs, carry cattle fever ticks. The refuge is in a temporary fever tick quarantine zone and nilgai are also a non-native species.

Moczygemba said while the damage the hogs do to the refuge is readily evident, the actual number of feral hogs on refuge property is more difficult to determine.

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