Ag Biz News Column
By: Chad Gulley
County Extension Agent–Ag/NR
Fences for Feral Hogs from Wildlife Feeding Stations
As white-tailed deer season approaches, hunters and landowners can help keep feral hogs out of feeding stations. Research has shown that fences built at the right height around the feeding station can greatly reduce feral hog’s access to the corn or supplemental feed for white-tailed deer.
In many parts of Texas, feral hogs are causing damage to landscapes, farm lands, ranching, wildlife management areas, and they pollute water. It is estimated that feral hogs cause $52 million in damage to the Agriculture industry each year.
Feral hogs are omnivores meaning they eat both plant and animal matter. Feral hogs are opportunist feeders meaning they feed on what is seasonally available. Food includes grasses, forbs, roots, acorns, fruits, bulbs, and mushrooms. They will also eat invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians, dead animals, and live mammals and birds. In Agricultural areas, feral hogs will eat corn, milo, wheat, rice, soybeans, peanuts, potatoes, and melons all to name a few.
Researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and AgriLife Extension erected various heights of welded-panel fences and studied their effectiveness. These fences were tested at 20, 28 and 34 inches tall. The researchers tested several locations using motion sensing cameras to monitor feral hog activity in the feeding stations during this trial. The 20 and 28 inch tall fences were constructed using six 16-foot long utility panels with 4 inch squares. The 34 inch tall fence was constructed using graduated hog panels with the smaller openings closest to the ground. Where each panel overlapped, steel T-post was used to stabilize these fences halfway between each overlap. Each fence built measured 28 feet in diameter and was placed around the broadcast feeding station.
The findings from this research revealed that 20 inch tall fences reduced feral hog access while the 28 inch and 34 inch tall fences kept the hogs out completely. These fences allowed white-tailed deer access to enter and feed. When fawns were present, the 20 and 28 inch tall were better choices. It is recommended that if a 34 inch tall fence be constructed to cut two slots that are 6 inches deep by 3 feet wide at the top of the fence to allow fawn access. The 34 inch tall fence may reduce fawn access to the feeding station. Researchers feel the lack of fawn activity near these feeding stations is due mostly to fawns having a lower social status. Bucks are at the top of the pecking order followed by does then fawns. Fawns will usually stay away from feeding areas and may be kept away from feeders by more dominant deer. As fawns grow, access to the feeding areas increases.
The materials for the 20, 28, and 34 inch tall fences cost $170, $187, and $190 respectively. In the 28 inch tall fence trial, 5 foot tall utility panels were cut in half to create the six panels needed. This increased the labor cost of this fence.
Dr. Billy Higginbotham, Texas AgriLife Extension Service Wildlife and Fisheries Specialist, has been using motion sensing cameras successfully for a number of years now in monitoring and trapping hogs. These cameras range in price and features. The motion sensing camera is a tool landowners can use to determine the size of hogs, numbers of hogs in a group, and when the hogs are accessing an area.
Dr. Higginbotham has said that white-tailed deer and feral hogs do not run together. When white-tailed deer are feeding and hogs show up, deer leave.
Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.