‘Feral Hog Whisperer’: Abilene family of trappers looking to slow down overpopulation

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – An Abilene father and daughter are taking it upon themselves to help quell the rise of feral hogs in the Big Country.

Feral hogs have become a nuisance across the State of Texas, costing farmers multimillions every year in revenue and property damages.

Taylor County and the Big Country are not exempt, and Steve Estes of the Texas AgriLife Extension says it has been close to $100,000 in damages in the past.

Managing the feral hog population is tricky, though, as they can have two or three litters of piglets a year.

That’s why hog trapping is so important to managing the population, and one retired Air Force veteran is looking to join in.

Pete Leija, owner of Hitman Hog Trapping in Abilene, has only been trapping for a year after spending 32.5 years traveling the globe with the Air Force.

Leija grew up in Houston, not giving much attention to hunting, but said that hog trapping has been a fun experience for him.

“I’m a military guy. I’m a Texas boy, I like guns,” Leija said. “So what more reason to have a bunch of guns, a big four wheel-drive truck and to start doing some trapping for people?”

Leija realized just how bad the feral hog population has gotten out of hand.

“There’s not enough trappers, hunters, or anything that is going to get rid of them,” Leija said.

But little did he know that his hog trapping business would turn into a family affair.

His 17-year old daughter and Wylie senior, Berenice Estrada, has been helping him for about a year and has fallen in love with trapping.

“It’s been really fun, the adrenaline, too,” Estrada said.

For Berenice, she has become a true feral hog whisperer and said she has put one of the most dangerous animals in the state to sleep.

“I just grabbed a little stick,” Estrada said. “And started petting its head and it was just closing its eyes. It was kind of funny.”

Pete plans on passing the family business down to her one day, knowing she can handle the logistics and the fieldwork equally well.

But, she still has to finish high school first.

Until then, Berenice said she’s going to enjoy the quality time she gets to spend with her dad, and wait until he hands over the keys to their camouflaged work truck.

“It’s real bonding time,” Berenice said. “We both catch hogs and go enjoy some Whataburger afterwards.”

For more information on how to keep feral hogs off your property, click this link.

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