Written by Craig Nyhus, Lone Star Outdoor News
Biologist Daniel Walker saw an unusual although not totally unexpected sight when flying a helicopter survey over the Chaparral Wildlife Management Area near Cotulla.
A warthog was running beneath the chopper.
“We knew some were on the property,” he said, “A neighboring ranch had released some last spring and I had seen one on the ground at the WMA, so we figured we might see him as we flew over this area.”
How did the African pig that gained fame in the U.S. in the movie The Lion King get there?
“There are warthogs around,” said Stephen Lange, area manager at the Chaparral WMA. “Most likely they were released behind high fences, and those usually hold them in. But warthogs burrow, like a big badger. It was probably a matter of time before some of them got out.
“I’ve also heard that they were the rage to have as pets at one time, kind of like the Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs.”
Lange said, similar to the axis deer roaming the Texas Hill Country, the warthogs began to move across the South Texas landscape.
“We told our hunters about them and that as a nonnative, like a feral hog, they could be shot. Only one of our hunters saw one this season,” he said. “He got too excited and missed.”
Near Encinal, about 35 miles south of the Chap, one of the hunters at the Snowden Ranch did connect with a warthog.
“It’s the only one we have seen so far,” said ranch owner Mickey Snowden. “I hope it’s the only one — it was the nastiest thing. The buzzards wouldn’t eat it — even the ants wouldn’t eat it.”
A few other warthog sighting have been reported. James Newport at Mesquite Creek Taxidermy in Pearsall has one in the shop.
“It was killed in Woodward,” he said. “And I heard of another that popped up southwest of Cotulla.
Warthogs, native to Sub-Saharan Africa, aren’t nocturnal like feral hogs. They feed on roots, tubers and graze on short grasses, and they burrow in cavities or holes at night, facing outward. During hot weather, they will go to waterholes to cool off.
At the Chaparral WMA, the 15,200-acre high fenced ranch owned by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for research and demonstration areas, several have been seen but Lange thinks they come and go under the fence.
“We saw the one by helicopter in September (2014), Lange said, and we’ve seen a half dozen at any one time since. We’ve had 5 inches of rain in April, though, and it’s plenty wet here. We may not see another one until August.”
Lange said he doesn’t believe the warthogs originated from the same exotic ranch.
“They have been seen on our adjacent ranches and 35 miles to the south,” he said. “They are at enough places that they probably didn’t all come from one place or ranch.”
Lange is unsure if the species can take hold in South Texas.
“We haven’t noticed reproduction, yet,” he said, “and all the ones we have seen are about the same size with the exception of one large boar.”
Photo by Daniel Walker, TPWD.