A Dallas whitetail fawn, a success story in feral hog eradication

Whitetail fawn Great Trinity Forest, McCommas Bluff September 2011

Feral hogs. Al-Qaeda on four legs. The Great Trinity Forest grows them big. Some weigh more than Dallas Cowboys offensive linemen. With an unlimited food supply, water, shelter and freedom from hunters the pigs for better lack of a term can go hog wild within the city limits of Dallas. In the summer and fall of 2010 there were so many pigs in the Great Trinity Forest that I would see many dozens of them on any one trip. Many of the sounders, what family groups of pigs are called, migrated up the river from the south. Other pigs were relocated from Dallas City Parks. Pigs were caught at Kiest Park and released in the riverbottom where they would not bother as many people.

The pigs viewed the Great Trinity Forest like college students view Cancun on Spring Break. All party. All the time. Redneck country pigs from the river mixing it up with the city pigs from Oak Cliff and Redbird. Soon the population mushroomed with baby pigs. It coincided with a super crop of pecans and acorns last fall. The baby pigs were pushing 100 pounds, fast. I covered much of it in a previous post last winter Trinity River Feral Pigs . I had enough footage of the river pigs that National Geographic used some of it in their The Invaders: Pigzilla documentary currently airing on TV(looking back on it I probably should not have given them the footage for free).

The feral pig in Texas is considered an apex predator. It will eat anything and everything. It will eat ground nesting bird eggs, fish, venomous snakes, carrion and juvenile animals of other species. It will nose out anything and everything else. They are pigs. It’s what they do. The result was that you would never see ducklings or fawns on the river. The pigs ate the eggs and killed the newborns. With an IQ on par with that of a domestic pet dog, they have enough wits to know where and how to stalk other animals. Feral pigs are also vectors for disease. They can contaminate bodies of water with a whole host of diseases.

In response to the feral pig problem Dallas commissioned their own feral pig trap. Within a few months it made enough of a dent in the population that the vandalism and destruction caused by the pigs went away. I know that poachers took probably as many as the trap caught too.

The video above is the feral pig trap as it looked in May 2011. The trap is large enough to catch whole family groups at one time. It utilizes a high fence and a trap door attached to a cable which runs down to a food source. The food source in this case is feed corn dispensed from an automatic feeder on a tripod. The corn you see growing inside the trap is from feed corn that germinated inside the trap. The corn grew as high as an elephant’s eye within another couple weeks. The whole time the trap door was open. Any pig could have waltzed in and rampaged 50 ears of fresh corn on the cob. Proof that the trap worked. It knocked off all the dumb and dumber of the pig population in that area. Like dogs, pigs can learn skills of survival. They witness other pigs in a trap and they learn not to go near the trap. Which is what happened here. There are still pigs in the forest but they have moved away from the Swine Srebrenica. They know. They have seen.

That whole preface of the background into the feral pig problem has paved the way for an exciting development. The first whitetail fawn that I have seen in this part of the forest.

The short video clip below is of a Whitetail doe and her fawn at McCommas Bluff on the evening of September 25, 2011. The mother appears first with the fawn close behind. They begin a slow and cautious walk down to an oxbow lake/swale to drink. A cold front had just pushed through the area and the wind had shifted to a strong breeze out of the north. Like the past three months, it was hotter than hell that day for late September, in the mid 90s. This is a unique part of the Great Trinity Forest. It sits in a very small finger like sliver of Post Oak Savannah that moves from SE to NW through Dallas County.

Sure, pretty neat to see a couple deer inside the Dallas city limits. Even more interesting that one is a fawn slowly losing spots. What makes it most interesting, is that this was the area just utterly rampaged by pigs last winter. When a doe raises fawns, they only range about one square mile. There is no possible way, none, none whatsoever that a doe could give birth and raise a fawn in those woods with so many pigs around. You can have deer or hogs. You cannot have both.

Last October I was lucky enough to see some larger bucks in the woods a little closer to the Audubon Center. I thought that while it was nice to see them, there could never be a sustainable population of deer. Maybe that is going to change?

Whitetail Buck in October 2010, 100 yards from present day Trinity Trail Bridge

The buck above would literally be standing on the newly constructed Trinity Trail that leads from the Audubon Center to the south bank of the river. Although it was only early October he was exhibiting full rut behavior with an aggressive stance, leg stomping etc. He could not see me well and was puzzled as to what I might have been. Last fall during the rut I found deer scat as far north and west as Sargent and Southerland Roads. I imagine they followed the river up.

Fawn in flight

Hopefully we will see more of this in the future. While some cities like Austin have come to loathe their pet population of deer, I think many Dallasites would welcome it.