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      Nature Report: Predators on the Prowl

      Predators are on the prowl in the south Texas wildlands. Warming temperatures have the diamondback rattlesnakes moving, and six feet of slithering serpent will definitely remind you to watch your step in the brush country. Coyotes are on the prowl as well, and while these opportunistic hunters are little or no threat to man, they have been known to grab a stray housecat or two. Lurking in the resacas and canals of the Rio Grande Valley is another predator the American alligator, and since some of these toothy critters exceed ten feet in length they are not to be trifled with. However, perhaps the most dangerous and certainly the most destructive creatures roaming the ranch country are feral hogs, which are essentially domestic pigs gone wild. Early Spanish explores were the first to introduce hogs in Texas more than 300 years ago, and in the 1930's some European wild boars were imported for hunting. Nearly three million wild hogs are now estimated to inhabit the state and they annually cause some $550 million dollars in damage. Armed with razor sharp tusks, hogs root up agricultural fields and wallow in fresh water sources destroying the ecosystem. They are omnivorous and devour anything from plant material to fawns and quail eggs. They are also prime hosts to hordes of fleas and ticks and carry many diseases such as E. coli. With their sharp tusks and weighing up to 400 pounds or more, they can be a formidable adversary if cornered. Despite concerted efforts to control the burgeoning feral hog population by shooting and trapping, the wily beasts are here to stay in the Lone Star State. With your Nature Report I'm Richard Moore