DALLAS (Reuters Life!) - October is not the best month to be a feral hog in Texas.
The state's Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples has declared October "Hog Out Month - Get the Hog Outta Texas!" as part of a campaign to eradicate the pests.
The campaign aims to get Texans to lock and load and hunt down the animals, which cause widespread damage to farmers and other landowners.
"Not only are feral hogs a costly nuisance to agricultural operations and wildlife habitats, but they are increasingly finding their way into urban areas and destroying residents' yards, public parks and golf courses," Staples said in a statement this week when the campaign was unveiled.
"On my ranch in East Texas, I have eliminated a number of hogs and I am asking Texans around the state to step up and join the county challenge to learn about feral hogs and how best to legally hunt and trap them in their area," he added.
Feral hogs are mostly domestic pigs that have gone wild, with some European wild boars that have escaped from exotic game ranches thrown into the mix and bloodlines.
State officials estimate the feral hog population in Texas to be around 2 million and they are estimated to cause around $400 million in damage annually as they eat or root up pastures, crops and even golf courses.
This makes them one of the most costly invasive species in the country.
The campaign may not please some animal rights groups but Texas farmers don't need much prompting to pull the trigger when it comes to feral hogs.
Their numbers are growing because they are prolific breeders with few natural predators and are moving into suburban and urban areas.
They are also regarded as a challenge to hunt or trap because they are wary and intelligent. In author George Orwell's novel "Animal Farm," the pigs ran the show for a reason.
"Get the Hog Outta Texas" month will feature a challenge among Texas counties that will run until October 31. The county that documents the most hogs removed during the month will get a $25,000 grant toward what the Texas Department of Agriculture terms "feral hog abatement technologies."