Texas has a pig problem.
Wild hogs have overrun the state so rapidly that in 2011, Texas allowed them to be hunted all year round. The feral hog epidemic even spawned a reality show called Aporkalypse Now, following Ted Nugent as he shoots hogs from a helicopter.
But what was once just a rural problem is now closing in on the city of Dallas. So Dallas decided to bring in Osvaldo Rojas, a professional trapper with years of hog-catching experience. His company, City Trapping, was hired to eradicate Dallas' wild hogs over the next three years.
"I've hunted all my life, ever since I was small, and my father always told me, if you do something you love, you never work a day in your life," Rojas says.
Left alone, hogs are about as fertile as rats, Rojas says. "One adult sow can have six to 10 piglets. Out in the woods, I guarantee you 99 percent of the piglets are going to make it. At six months, that same piglet is already fertile."
The feral pig population in Texas has grown to nearly 3 million, roughly half of all the feral hogs in the country. In Dallas, they are bathing in rivers, spreading diseases, ruining the parks — basically, turning the city into a pig sty.
"If you think about it, Dallas spends millions of dollars on up-keeping at a park," Rojas says. "And one hog can tear up half an acre in a night."
The Texas Department of Agriculture says feral hogs cause $52 million in damage every year. On top of that, they're dangerous: People have reported hog attacks in the parks.
"It's a 300-pound hog," Rojas says. "If it's a big boar or a mama with piglets, it's gonna charge."
Rojas says he's been flipped about five times in the last month. Even someone who deals with hogs every day doesn't always come away scratch-free.
"I've had quite a bit of injuries: stitches, a couple of broken bones," he says. "About eight pairs of boots, you name it, jeans. I just stopped buying jeans. I just wear them ripped now. There's no reason to keep buying them if they're gonna continue to get ripped, so might as well keep wearing 'em."
His plan involves placing large traps with video cameras all around the city, luring the hogs with feeding stations. Once the entire pack is in the trap, he closes the gates from his smartphone. Constant video surveillance allows him to study their behavior for days.
Rojas estimates it will take about two years to trap most of the hogs, and then the last year to capture the stragglers. He says has a strategy that sets him apart.
"It doesn't take much, but it has to do with patience," he explains. "I can sit out there for eight hours and not see anything, and I'm totally fine. It takes somebody to have patience. And a little bit of know-how."
JACKI LYDEN, HOST:
Now, we turn to a different kind of sport.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "APORKALYPSE NOW")
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Unintelligible)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: They're about to die.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (Unintelligible)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I got two. There's three. I got three.
LYDEN: Hunters in Texas shooting their game from a helicopter, but they're not aiming at bears or deer. They're hunting feral hogs. These wild animals repopulate at such a rapid rate, about 20 percent per year, that in 2011, Texas allowed them to be hunted all year round. It even spawned a reality show called "Aporkalypse Now," featuring who else, Ted Nugent shooting hogs from the sky.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "APORKALYPSE NOW")
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: Wild hogs are now spreading out of control.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: They are a growing menace.
LYDEN: Once just a rural problem, the Aporkalypse is closing in on Dallas. The city isn't shooting the animals from the sky. What they're doing is bringing in a professional trapper with years of experience.
OSVALDO ROJAS: Well, I've hunted all my life, ever since I was small, and my father always told me, if you do something you love, you never work a day in your life.
LYDEN: That's Osvaldo Rojas. His company, City Trapping, is trying to remove the hogs from the city within a few years, because left alone, these hogs are about as fertile as rats.
ROJAS: One adult sow can have six to 10 piglets. Out in the woods, I guarantee you 99 percent of the piglets are going to make it. At six months, that same piglet is already fertile.
LYDEN: The population has grown to nearly three million in Texas. That's roughly half of all the feral hogs in the country. And because they do hog-like things like bathing in rivers, they're spreading diseases, ruining the parks, turning the city into a pig sty.
ROJAS: I mean, if you think about it, Dallas spends millions of dollars on upkeeping at a park. And one hog can tear up half an acre in a night.
LYDEN: Hog damage is costing Texas $52 million annually. And there have been close feral encounters. People have reported attacks.
ROJAS: It's a 300-pound hog. If it's a big boar or a mama with piglets, it's going to charge.
LYDEN: Rojas says hogs have actually flipped him over about five times in the last month alone.
ROJAS: I've had quite a bit of injuries: stitches, a couple of broken bones, about eight pairs of boots, you name it, jeans. I just stopped buying jeans. I just wear them ripped now.
LYDEN: To call the hogs, Rojas has set up feeding stations around the city. They're equipped with video cameras that he can control remotely with his cellphone. And once the entire pack is inside, he closes the gates.
ROJAS: We have some videos where they're running and they run into the gate to try to - they're not trying to get you. They're trying to get away. And that's when they turn a little aggressive. So if there's a trailer there, they're going to run straight in the trailer.
LYDEN: And you know what, Rojas and his team will end up catching more hogs than even Ted Nugent. And best of all, when the day is done...
ROJAS: I mean, I eat them myself. I never buy meat.
LYDEN: And it's fun.
ROJAS: Yeah. I love chasing these little things. That's how I stay in shape.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.