When Pigs Fly

I read an article recently that recognized the common cockroach as the species that will most likely survive the next world wide catastrophic event. That’s a ridiculous notion! Cockroaches can’t think of anything better to do than hang around in the kitchen cabinets and give people the quillies. In my opinion the feral hog has a much more developed sense of survival and will eventually replace humans as the most intelligent species on the planet. You think I’m crazy? Well, obviously you don’t know pigs. I know many pigs. Mostly the wild kind. Known scientifically as Sus Scrofa, wild pigs are a big problem out here in our corner of the world. Many of you local readers probably know that already, but since one of my duties is wildlife management, they are the bane of my existence. These beastly porkers regularly tear up the landscaping at Laity Lodge, punch holes in the fences, and plow through half an acre of turf grass in one night! Over the years, I have developed some serious psychological “issues” based on my fear that hogs will some day rule the world.

My family’s morning ritual before the kids ship off to school is to watch a few minutes of a t.v. show called “Pet Star.” It’s sort of the domesticated pet version of “Dancing With The Stars.” Basically, someone brings their pet like a dog or a parrot out on the stage, the pet does a few tricks, and then a panel of 3 celebrity judges rates them on a scale from 1-10. If my kids and I don’t agree with the judge’s score, we slander them with disparaging and ridiculing remarks! On one particular episode, my family watched in amazement as a pig named “Mudslinger” politely waved to the audience, picked up his toys, dribbled a soccer ball through some cones, and put away his scattered clothes! Actually, it was the rest of my family that was amazed. My impression, on the other hand, would be better described as alarm or panic because I realized that pigs might actually be smarter and have more skills than my own children! Heck, based on the fact that I am regularly outsmarted by them, I have to honestly admit that… You can see why I have issues with pigs.

Consider this example of the feral hog’s ability to solve problems; While hiking up Silver Creek with his golden retriever the other day, Alan Blaha, one of the Foundation’s operations staff, encountered a wild boar. The boar was initially startled and started to run up the creek bed. Naturally, the dog gave chase to the boar. However, while running, the boar did some rudimentary calculations in weights and measurements, and determined that he outweighed the dog and Alan combined! Realizing the possible consequences of this mathematical solution, the boar did an “about face” and tested his hypothesis with an experiment in kinetic energy. Using the given of mass as potential, the boar applied the force of forward movement and arrived at the conclusion that he could send Alan and his dog back home rather quickly! You see what I mean? Pigs are going to rule the world!

Over the years I have tried many methods of hog removal mostly resulting in futility. Hogs are mostly nocturnal, and therefore you have to be willing to stay up late into the night if you want to catch them moving. Hunting them with spotlights doesn’t really work because they can hear you coming, and they just scamper into cover long before you can see them. Trapping them works once in a while, but they have an uncanny ability to sense danger, and they will typically eat every morsel of bait that you set out except for the bait in the trap! Night vision goggles, motion sensing cameras, laser sighted weapons… I’ve tried them all. I even tried using our Fisher Price baby monitor over at Laity Lodge as a covert listening device. The idea was to place the monitor in the hog’s usual destructive path and sleep in a nearby cabin with the receiver on so I would be able to detect the hogs arrival time and catch them off guard. After that attempt, the late, great, Mrs. Butt asked me what was so special about staying up at night chasing after hogs? I tried to explain to her that it was the perfect example of survival of the fittest- pitting your senses, your wits and your skills against the most cunning beast in the wilds of the Texas Hill Country- the triumph of standing outside in your underwear, rifle in hand, over the carcass of a would be destroyer of the planters in front of the Cody Center…. I’ve never been able to tell if my explanation made any sense to her because she never talked to me again! Sadly, though, all of these attempts at reducing the hog population have largely been in vain.

However, it’s my latest experience in hog control that has confirmed my fears that hogs are threatening to eclipse man’s intelligence. Our latest practice in locating feral hogs has been the use of trained dogs. My friend James Reasoner from Kerrville is a master hog hunter, and he has a pack of dogs that are trained to locate and chase hogs out of their bedding areas and into the open. Keep in mind that these are not the kind of dogs that you want sitting next to you as you read by the fireplace. They’re actually closer in demeanor to timber wolves, and their aggressive pursuit is unnerving even to the biggest boars. A while back, early one morning, the dogs had sniffed out a boar about the size of my desk with tusks over 3″ on the back side of the ranch. The fight was pretty evenly matched, but eventually, the dogs chased the boar over a mile through cactus, brush, and smack dab up against the edge of circle bluff which drops straight down 400 feet to the headwaters of the Frio River. As it just so happened, on that particular morning, a group of 5th grade boys from Sterling City Elementary School were residing in cabin 2 of Comanche Outpost directly below the howling battle taking place above. They were just waking up for another exciting day of outdoor education when they heard the commotion, and naturally, being 5th graders, they ran down to the water’s edge to watch the show. In the meantime, our group of hunters had just caught up to the dogs, and were trying to figure out what to do next when, all of a sudden, and I’m sure I saw this, the boar winked and stepped off the edge!

No, I’m not kidding, this is a true story! Of course, to everyone who witnessed the event, it looked like the boar just fell off the cliff, but I know the truth….. That pig was trying to fly!

Even though it was a slight variation to the day’s outdoor educational curriculum, the boys unanimously agreed that watching a wild boar soar 400 feet into the river was the highlight of their experiential learning activity. Being from Sterling City where most boys are the sons of ranchers and farmers, I wasn’t too worried about any lasting psychological damage. The effect on me, however, was a little more significant.

When Pigs Fly… this phrase is a joke that always gets used in the context of impossibility, something that will never happen, but take this as a warning from a guy who knows because I’ve seen it. Knowing pigs the way I do, it won’t be long before the joke’s on us!

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