Board of Directors Regular Meeting Agenda


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Meeting Date: 01/15/2020  

SUBJECT MATTER:
Receive, consider and act upon the feral hog issues (as requested by Chairman Bunch and Director Snyder);
FISCAL IMPACT:
Research suggests that each feral hog is responsible for $200 in property damage per year.   With an estimated population in Texas of over 2.5 million feral hogs, the damage to property equates to over $500,000,000 in damage in Texas.  This does not include damage to residential landscapes.  Residents in The Woodlands have reported spending thousands of dollars to repair damaged landscapes caused by feral hogs. 

The cost to control feral hog populations depends upon the method of management and abatement.  Quotes for contracted professional trapping services range from $50 per hour to $70 per hour, or flat rate charges per hog trapped ranging from $0 per hog to $53 per hog, depending on how many hogs are trapped at one time, and $800 per hour for aerial surveillance and shooting by helicopter.

Contracted trapping services is estimated to cost approximately $1,000 to install a corral type trap and as much as $3,700 per month in feed, monitoring and removal, for an annual estimate of $44,400 per trap. 

Best practices indicate that a feral hog trapping program is ongoing with a minimum of three years of regular trapping to stabilize a hog population.  A community wide trapping program may require the addition of six traps, to supplement the existing traps managed by other land owners.  Total estimated costs for trapping services for six traps is approximately $266,400 per year.

The development of a Wildlife Management Plan has been suggested to assist the Township with all types of wildlife issues, including feral hogs and coyotes. The cost for contracted professional services to develop a plan is estimated at $25,000.
BACKGROUND:
This Executive Summary is an update to the information provided to the Board of Directors at the December 4, 2019, Board of Directors meeting. The Executive Summary from that meeting and the Executive Summary from November 2017 are attached as reference (Attachment A).

At the December 4, 2020, Board Of Directors meeting, the Board received a request from the Windsor Hills Homeowner's Association (WHHOA) for assistance to install a fence between Windsor Hills neighborhood and Plantation Apartments.  It was suggested the fence would help restrict feral hogs' access to the neighborhood from Jones State Forest, a known habitat for feral hogs.  WHHOA had previously installed fences across other access points around the neighborhood on WHHOA property.

Township staff coordinated approvals from the various land-owners and easement holders to install a temporary hog abatement fence.  Windsor Hills HOA agreed to fund a portion of the fence and the fence was installed the end of December.  While it has only been a few weeks since the fence was completed, Township staff has not received reports of feral hog activity in the neighborhood. Feral hogs have been observed during the day along SH242/College Park Dr. Township staff have received reports of an increase in feral hog activity and property damage from residents in Grogan's Point and the Village of Indian Springs.

The Board of Directors was advised that staff was working to schedule a community public educational forum for residents.  Two such programs have been scheduled:

Walk in the Woods: Feral Hogs in a Suburban Landscape
Topic: Feral hogs are a growing problem in Texas because of their destructive feeding habits, potential to spread disease, and increasingly expanding population. Impacts are being felt in most areas of Texas including suburban landscapes like The Woodlands. Dr. John Tomecek, Assistant Professor and Extension Wildlife Specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, is a leading expert in the State on feral hog biology and control. His agency’s mission is both scientific and educational, providing landowners and governmental bodies with support on the identification, management, and abatement of damages from feral hogs. In this presentation Dr. Tomecek will provide education on the history of feral hogs in Texas, their environmental and economic impacts, and best practices to homeowners needing to manage damages themselves.
  • Wednesday, Feb 5, 2020
  • 7:00 pm
  • Recreation Center at Rob Fleming Park
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration is required [link to be established]
Going GREEN Lecture: Feral Swine: Challenges and Control
 Topic: Feral swine (Sus scrofa) were likely first introduced to Texas by Spanish explorers in the 1600’s. Over the ensuing 300+ years they have expanded to become one of the most destructive invasive species in the State, wreaking ecological havoc, destroying crops and lawns, and costing the State some $400 million in damages annually.  The secret to their success is multi-fold: highly intelligent, impressively fecund, and lacking in natural predators. They’re also remarkably adaptable, as more and more residents of urban environments are realizing. Chris Watts will walk through the history of invasive feral swine in Texas, their ecological and economic impacts, wildlife-human interactions, and urban feral swine management practices and strategies including IPM (Integrated Pest Management).
 
Speaker: Chris Watts is the Wildlife Damage Management Biologist in the College Station district office of the USDA - Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Texas Wildlife Services Program. There he helps private landowners and government entities alike with their nuisance wildlife issues while simultaneously assisting with disease sampling and disease prevention. Chris works in the field mitigating damage and loss related primarily to predators, vultures, aquatic mammals and feral swine.
Additional efforts completed since the December 4, 2019, Board of Directors meeting include: the addition of feral hog information on the Township's website in the Environmental Services/Wildlife pages; meetings and information sharing with officials and representatives from State Representative Steve Toth's Office, Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough's Office, Montgomery County Precinct 2 Charlie Riley's Office, Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, Harris County Precinct 4 Jack Cagle's Office, Chambers County Sheriff's Office, San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA), Woodlands Water Agency, Jones State Forest, Howard Hughes Corporation, Texas AgriLife, Texas Wildlife Services, USDA, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Windsor Lakes HOA, Carriage Hills HOA, Johnson Development, and many feral hog/nuisance wildlife management and control professionals.

From these meetings and discussions, Township staff is working along with Representative's Toth's office to schedule a working meeting(s) of these stakeholders in the next few weeks.  The purpose of the meeting is to collaborate on the potential for cooperative efforts to control feral hogs in the region.  For example, Texas AgriLife and Texas Wildlife Services provide technical support in the form of abatement and removal of feral hogs. Wildlife Services has cooperative agreements with many counties that provides support to residents and other agencies in the counties.  Those cooperating counties have access to statewide resources to conduct larger-scale periodic efforts on emerging issues related to wildlife damage.  These agencies and others can help the Township, Montgomery County and Harris County plan and implement strategies for managing damage in the long term. 

In the near term, professionals have recommended that additional feral hog trapping efforts should be occurring, at a minimum, in the following locations:
  • Spring Creek Greenway area along Spring Creek between Gosling Road and I-45
  • Panther Branch - south of SH242, east and west of Greenbridge
  • Harper's Landing - northeast corner of the Township
These locations are recommended due to known feral hog travel corridors and active feeding and breeding grounds with consideration of the known existing active trapping locations.   Trapping feral hogs will never eliminate the problem.  The goal is to remove 70% of the local hog population per year to maintain the population to a tolerable level.  This requires an aggressive hog abatement program for several years. 

To locate feral hog traps along the Montgomery County side of the Spring Creek Greenway requires participation, support and approval from Montgomery County Precinct 3.  As of this report, Precinct 3 and Township staff have not been able to discuss the matter.   An optional location to the Grogan's Point area could be the tract recently acquired through the extension of the Comprehensive Community Services Agreement (CCSA).  The Township will be conveyed approximately 23 acres along the Harris County side of the Spring Creek Greenway adjacent to Gosling Road.  This property may be conducive to a location(s) for hog traps.

In addition, the CCSA provides the Township approximately 15 acres of property near Panther Branch, another possible hog trap location.  And the Woodlands Water Agency has indicated support to allow feral hog traps on MUD property in the Harper's Landing area.   SJRA has also indicated support to allow feral hog traps on land SJRA controls within the Township.  These agencies are open to entering into agreements with the Township to allow professional trappers contracted by the Township access to the properties. 
 
Wildlife Management Plan
The Integrated Forest Management Plan (IFMP) was adopted in 2003, and updated in 2013. The document is a guide for The Woodlands Township on the best management practices to maintain and preserve the forest and enhance the other functions of the forest -  lakes, ponds and wildlife. A component of the IFMP completed in 2011 was the Lake and Pond Management Plan that addresses many of the needs of the lakes and ponds in the community, including sections related to waterfowl management. The plan includes information on methodology, general forest management, wildlife management, lake and pond management, education, and a comprehensive list of actions.

A pending component of the IFMP is a wildlife management plan.  $25,000 was approved in the 2018 Parks & Recreation Budget as a placeholder for the plan, but the selection of a consultant did not move forward at that time.  The goal of the Wildlife Plan would be to provide the Township direction in the management of wildlife on parks and open space reserves owned, operated and managed by The Woodlands Township and would recommend a comprehensive list of actions. The scope of work would include inventorying Township owned, leased or operated open space reserves/parks to understand the impact/existence of wildlife, and provide baseline census data of wildlife in the park/open space reserve system. Furthermore, the plan would provide guidelines for the when, how and if prescribed control of species/nuisance wildlife is required for such species as: coyotes, ducks, rodents, beaver, nutria, bee’s, pigeons/grackles, feral hogs, snakes, deer, and alligators. 
 
If the Board desires to pursue trapping of feral hogs, staff will solicit bids for contracted feral hog/nuisance wildlife removal services, draft agreements with other governmental agencies that own the property on which traps are to be located, and return to the Board for consideration. Another option is to defer any action until the stakeholders' meeting is conducted and its outcomes are presented to the Board and/or until a Wildlife Management Plan is developed and presented for Board consideration.
 
RECOMMENDATION:
Board to determine course of action.
Attachments
Attachment A - Feral Hog Executive Summaries


    

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