Wed October 31, 2012
Little Piggies + 85 MPH = Wee Bit of a Problem
Update: Oct. 31, 5:36 a.m.: The Central Texas toll road with the nation's highest speed limit will get signs warning drivers about wildlife. The move comes after at least three incidents of vehicles hitting animals in the first few days of the new 85 mph zone.
According to the San Antonio Express-News, the private company that runs the 41-mile portion of State Highway 130 says temporary electronic message boards will be used until permanent signs can be installed.
Original Story: Oct. 26, 1:57 p.m.: A new section of State Highway 130 opened Wednesday. It runs from Mustang Ridge to Seguin and allows drivers to go 85 mph. But the same night the highway opened, there were a handful of crashes involving local wildlife.
Three of the crashes happened in Lockhart. Lockhart Police Captain John Roecher isn't surprised by the problem.
"During the construction part of SH 130, the nightshift officers were observing all the wildlife that was still running through the construction areas," Roecher says. "And now that the highway is open, there’s concerns about the wildlife that’s traveling up onto the highway and being hit by vehicles."
Some of the wildlife causing dangerous conditions for drivers are wild, or feral, hogs. Many Texans are already familiar with other problems they cause.
Feral hogs breed rapidly, compete for food with native species of wildlife, prey on livestock and contribute to E. Coli and other diseases in Texas streams, ponds and watersheds. According to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, feral hogs cause $500 million dollars in economic damage statewide every year.
“We have an estimated 2.6 million feral hogs in this state alone,” Jared Timmons of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service says.
But Timmons says the reason the hogs are dangerous on the road is because their eyes don’t reflect light like a lot of other wildlife.
“One of the main problems we have with [pigs] crossing roadways is that have no eye shine. Basically, it’s just a tissue in the eyes of a lot of the native animals have… that actually reflects light and allows them to see at night. Feral hogs don’t have that," Timmons says.
Many of the hogs are also dark in color—making them even more difficult to see.
Captain Roecher says the solution for nighttime drivers on the new highway is to be cautious and pay attention. He thinks the hogs will dissipate from the roadways as traffic increases. But where will they go?
The Texas Department of Agriculture now offers a program for Texas counties called "Hog Out" that encourages hog population control. The counties that get rid of the most hogs receive thousands of dollars in prizes. Some counties also offer incentives to local hunters, like a $2 bounty for every hog tail turned in. Currently, Travis County does not participate.