AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin says an animal protection officer was injured by a feral hog while responding to a call in a northwest Austin neighborhood.
The animal protection officer was hospitalized and is recovering, a spokesperson for the city explained. However, neighbors in the area are concerned that the city’s response to this animal was not enough to address the risk the hog presented.
Neighbors first reported seeing a large, black feral hog running through their yards along Crossmeadow Drive and Creekbluff Drive in the Lakewood area at around 1:00 p.m. The area is just west of Loop 360 approaching Ranch Road 2222.
Kevin McConnell was working in his home when he saw movement out his front window.
“I saw this wild hog go running through my front yard,” he recalled, mentioning he ran out to see what was going on. He estimates the hog weighed around 150 to 200 pounds and had tusks that were at least four inches long.
McConnell watched as the hog ran to a neighbor’s yard where a painter was working on the home. The painter barely dodged the hog who ran into the yard at that home, the painter then shut the gate on that yard, locking the hog inside.
Neighbors told KXAN they called 9-1-1, but were then transferred to 3-1-1, the city’s non emergency line. After what they believe to be 20 minutes and a returned phone call from the city, an animal control officer was dispatched.
The hog was pacing in circles in the backyard of the home that Lane Arnold lives in with his wife and two kids.
Arnold described the hog’s behavior as “kind of like a matador with a bull.”
“It got way at the back of the yard and he started trotting up towards the gate, and he got within ten to fifteen yards of the gate into a full gallop, and he just ran into the gate headfirst and totally smashed into it,” Arnold described. The hog made a significant dent in that front part of the steel gate, but did not break through that time.
The animal protection officer arrived, armed with a catch pole. A city spokesperson explained that animal protection officers don’t have lethal capabilities, they are just equipped with catch poles and nets.
McConnel recalled looking at the officer’s catch pole and remarking “that’s not gonna be big enough to do anything with [the hog].”
The officer walked over to take a look at the hog, and then opened up the now-dented front gate in hopes that the hog would exit. The families in the area moved away from the open gate.
But the hog went to a different section of the gate further back near the adjacent greenbelt.
“All of a sudden, the hog bulldozed right through the fence and busted right through the fence and attacked the officer,” McConnell recalled. McConnell had his gun with him and offered it to the animal control officer, but by that time the hog had run off into the greenbelt.
The officer called for Austin Emergency Medical Services to come help him. He had two gashes in his leg from the hog, which McConnell estimates were six to eight inches long. McConnell and Laura Arnold, who live on the property, applied pressure to the officer to stop his bleeding.
Austin-Travis County EMS arrived and transported the officer to Round Rock Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries.
Austin-Travis County EMS said they were called to the home at 1:30 p.m. on Friday for a report of an animal bite. McConnell recalls that Austin Police Officers also arrived at that time, armed with rifles and appearing prepared to go after the hog.
While ATCEMS described this officer was reported to be bitten by the feral hog, neighbors who were there said they believe the individual was actually gored by the hog’s tusks.
Moments, before the attack, a video taken by JT Moorman and provided by the city of Austin appears to show the feral hog walking around in the yard and then slamming the fence open.
Austin-Travis County EMS told KXAN it is “not common at all” for them to respond to calls of feral hog injuries.
But the neighbors who live in the area say feral hogs are becoming a more frequent presence there, tearing up gardens and backyards.
McConnell has lived in the neighborhood since 1990 and said he has only seen evidence of feral hogs in the past year. The hog that attacked the animal control officer is the largest one McConnell has seen and the first time he has seen one in daylight.
“Something’s got to change with the way we deal with this issue in Austin, now that someone has been hurt severely with this,” McConnell said
McConnell’s opinion is that “an animal control officer who is not armed can’t deal with a wild 150-pound hog.”
But more than anything, he said he wants guidance from the city and from game wardens on what the proper response would be in a situation like this in the future to reduce the risk of injuries.
Lane Arnold said that until the encounter Friday, his family didn’t realize how aggressive feral hogs could be. He’s worried about how his young children, who are often running around inside, could be harmed if one of these hogs charges again.
“The animal control guy was a full grown man with training,” Arnold said. “But if a hog went after one of these kids it would end very badly I think, so the safety of our children and our pets is paramount to us.”
Feral hogs can be found across much of Texas. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department estimates there are more than 1.5 million across the state. The department notes that there are “very few inhibiting factors” to curb the population growth of these hogs in Texas.
Texas Parks and Wildlife explained to KXAN in an email Sunday that under state law, no hunting license is needed to hunt feral hogs on private property as long as the landowner has given permission.
However, in Austin, there are strict limits on shooting firearms within the city.
As for McConnell, he’s wants to know what neighbors should do the next time a hog charges through their years.
Of the hog behind Friday’s attack, he said, “now it’s out there, it’s in our neighborhoods every night until someone takes it out.”