Saturday, February 26, 2011

Feral Pigs in the Great Trinity Forest

Feral Pig along Trinity River Trail

Almost anywhere you go in the Great Trinity Forest you will see evidence of feral pigs or actual feral pigs. I have seen them upstream as far as the Corinth Street Bridge and as far south as Dowdy Ferry Road @ 1-20. Everywhere inbetween. Feral pigs along the Trinity move in family groups of 2-3 adults and 6 or more piglets. Rarely will I see a solitary pig. They seem to stay in their family groups. Adults weigh well above 100 pounds with many matching adult humans 150-200 pounds in weight.

Domestic pigs were introduced from Europe to the Americas by Spanish explorers here in Texas. Over time, some pigs escaped or were intentionally released into the wild. Subsequently, free-ranging, feral populations established themselves here in the state. Here in Texas there are three strains of wild hogs. Eurasian, feral hogs and hybrids between the two. Inside the city limits of Dallas, the feral pigs here are a hybrid between the two. They exhibit alot of domesticated marks but have the distinct longer hair and snout of Eurasian/ Russian Boars.

Feral pigs have sharp tusks and will attack if provoked or if they feel threatened. They have no natural predators in the Trinity Forest here in Dallas. Nothing hunts them, eats them, harasses them. They are the top of the food chain.  Feral pigs are opportunistic omnivores that eat whatever plants or animals happen their way. They can run over 25 mph for over 100 yards or more. I had one chase me this summer while mountain biking and it was running a solid 25-30mph. On foot a human would stand little chance of avoiding injury.

WARNING: These pigs will attack pet dogs if provoked. They will not attack dogs that bay at pigs but if threatened the pigs will charge your dog. Some of the locals who run their dogs with their horses on rides down in the riverbottoms place thick men's rodeo style western belts around their dogs necks to prevent injury. Great care should be taken to insure the safety of your pet anywhere south of Loop 12.

In the summer of 2010 their concentration was south of Loop 12 and north of Simpson Stuart Road. In the fall of 2010 and winter of 2011 they had shifted north of Loop 12 and up White Rock Creek as far north as 175. The population is quite large. I rarely see the same sounder of pigs twice.

Feral pig sounder at Joppa Preserve, south bank Trinity River

The pigs in the photo above are eating pecans that have fallen off of the surrounding trees. Pigs seem to have very poor eyesight, great hearing and a great sense of smell. As a result you can often get too close to them without you or the pigs knowing. In high grass, like Johnson Grass you can come across sleeping pigs and literally almost step on them as I have done.

Feral pigs in Dallas

Feral pigs in the video above were eating pecans from the same trees as the other pigs in the photo above. They are a different family group and were seen on a different trip to the river bottoms. Pigs, even the piglets are excellent swimmers and can easily cross the Trinity River without issue.

Feral pigs on levee

The pigs in the video above are rooting a levee NE of the McCommas Bluff Landfill. The levee forms an oxbow kidney shape lake that serves as a buffer between the riverbottoms and the landfill. A group of pigs such as these cause enormous damage very quickly. Erosion, loss of vegetation and habitat destruction.

If you ever wanted to know what the migrating range of one of these might be, I
found out.

The pig with oreo colors in black and white in the upper right of this photo was seen around Thanksgiving near I-20.

Path of pig from south to north during winter of 2011

Two months later I found the remains of the same pig north of the Texas Horse Park, west of Pemberton Hill Road near White Rock Creek. I had to double check my photo of the live pig from months before. It's indeed the same pig. Just shows how far and wide these pigs will roam. Loop 12, 175 and I-20 all have underpasses for the creeks that are very wide and offer great avenues for pigs to travel up and down the waterways.

In 2011 the City of Dallas constructed a large feral pig trap in the Great Trinity Forest near the Trinity River:

Irving and Arlington also have large feral hog populations. They began feral pig control programs of their own in 2010 due to complaints from citizens. The City of Dallas feral hog trap is in a rather remote part of the city. This location is heavily used by the pigs as a gateway to the rest of Dallas. The pigs follow the waterways and roam freely from the Wilmer Hutchins area up into the City of Dallas. The trap or pen is in a very good location to intercept the pigs as they move up and down the river.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

William Blair Park(Rochester Park)and Texas Buckeye Trails

Pirate Island at Rochester Park now known as William Blair Park

William Blair Park in the Bonton neighborhood of Dallas has an ever growing number of soft surface trails to compliment the paved trail built in 2008-2009. Previously known as Rochester Park it hosts three trail components. The Texas Buckeye Trail, the soft surface trails that lead to and from the Trinity River Overlook and a third set of trails east of the Buckeye Trails that are located near the "Bart Simpson Lake".

Location:  7000 Bexar Street Dallas Texas 75215

Map of Rochester Park and Texas Buckeye Trail System

The Buckeye Trail was originally a soft surface nature trail in 2003-2005. In late 2008 construction started to pave a good portion of it from the Rochester Park Levee south to the bank of the Trinity Overlook. This paved trail is the most widely used path by groups and individuals in the Great Trinity Forest. Easy access and defined parking at the cul de sac on Bexar make this more inviting to less adventurous.

The concrete path intersects with soft surface trails at a number of points. From these, one can travel the half mile to an alternate Trinity Overlook downstream from the concrete plaza built at the end of the concrete portion of the Buckeye Trail.

Follow the trail signs, survey tape and blazes on trees heading east by south to make your way to the lake in Rochester Park nicknamed "Bart Simpson Lake". The lake holds this nickname because it resembles Bart Simpson's head. The lake features an island in the middle which can be accessed during dry weather via the south shoreline. At the present time you can only walk or mountain bike around 90% of the lake. The creek that drains the lake towards White Rock Creek prevents a complete circumnavigation. It's a swampy gooey mess if you try and cross the creek. Not recommended.

The trails in this area are meandering loops through oak, elm and smaller trees. If you include the Buckeye Trails and the newly built trails near the Bart Simpson Lake, they total about 5 miles without double backing.

Lower Rochester Park Trail cut in 2010

These trails are well suited for dogs and small children compared with others inside the Great Trinity Forest. Very little poison ivy and no cactus. Some other sections of the Trinity Forest hold quite a bit of prickly pear cactus and could injure a dog. I have not seen any feral pigs or feral pig activity in this area either.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Whitetail Deer of the Trinity River Forest in Dallas

Deer are a common sight in the more remote areas of the Trinity River south of Loop 12. They can be seen usually in the early evening on some of the game trails they frequent.

These photos were taken in the fall of 2010 and winter of 2011 in Dallas south of Loop 12

Six point whitetail buck in Great Trinity Forest near future phase III of Trinity River Trail

Whitetail deer at McCommas Bluff Preserve at the Trinity City Ghost town site

The deer in the video below were inbetween the Trinity River and McCommas Bluff. Two whitetail deer are in the video. They were chasing a doe that had crossed the same stretch of ground a minute prior. Since this is inside the city limits of Dallas and in a park the deer have no natural predators

The deer can be easy to see but quite difficult to photograph. They often move in heavy brush and you usually only get a quick glance.