Category Archives: Field Notes from 3RF

Wildlife biology research for 3RF (3 Rivers Foundation)

Secrets of a Feral Hog Skull

In a cleaning event at the Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus, a feral hog skull was rediscovered. I’m not sure how old the skull is, but it was in need of repair to stabilize it for future conservation education programs with the 3 Rivers Foundation.

To start the cleaning process I placed the skull in a bucket of bleach to whiten, clean off dirt, and remove the lasting bits muscle. This process took several days. After it was fully cleaned it was allowed to dry thoroughly.


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During this entire process, Azrael inspected nearly every move I made with the skull. She’s a rather curious shepherd.


I then glued the fragile bones back in place, as well as the teeth. I even went back and reglued several areas to ensure everything was set. The final touch was applying several coats of clear sealant to help preserve the skull even more. Its still a fragile skull, but the teaching opportunities will be immeasurable, especially given one of the major the secret’s the skull holds.

As I was working during the regluing stage, I wondered how could I tell if it was a boar or sow skull. It took a bit of research but I soon discovered that it was a young boar skull. The mystery was solved by the holes on the sides of the lower mandible. The tips of the terminal end of the tooth root are known as the root apex. The root apex of this skull goes to the second molar. Viola – boar! A female’s root apex only goes to under the first to third premolar.




In researching a bit further I discovered that when they are born both sexes of feral hogs already have deciduous or milk teeth. We all know that male and female wild hogs have tusks and use them for defense. Boars have a tendency to slash and stab with their tusks, while sows would rather bite.

Feral pigs have a total of 44 permanent teeth. The top teeth are hollow and serve as a grinding machine for the longer lower teeth, which continue to grow throughout the animal’s life. For teaching, purposes to show this other secret of their skull I left out one of the upper teeth to illustrate the hollowness of their teeth. These teeth remain hollow except in very old pigs.

Another secret the skull shows is how small their eyes are. Eye sockets of feral hogs are very small which gives them poor vision.

Some other interesting scientific facts about feral hogs you might now know:

  • Early Spanish explorers were the best bets for introducing hogs in Texas over 300 years ago.
  • Feral hogs are unprotected, exotic, non-game animals. They can be hunted all year long, with no bag limits and taken by any method, as long as it’s not your car. A hunting license and landowner permission are needed.
  • Feral hogs travel in family groups called sounders, comprised normally of two sows and their young.
  • Feral hogs are omnivorous. Meaning they do eat both meat and plants.
  • Feral hogs can carry a lot of potential diseases and include pseudorabies, swine brucellosis, tuberculosis, bubonic plague, tularemia, hog cholera, foot and mouth disease, and anthrax. Scary, huh?
  • Capable of producing at least two litters per year.
  • Current estimated population in Texas is about 1.5 million feral hogs.
  • Pigs don’t sweat.



Here is a good photo showing a “sounder.” 

Testing the Waters

As I continue to monitor the wildlife diversity at Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus for the 3 Rivers Foundation, I’m often surprised by the interactions and behaviors of wildlife captured on the trail cameras. This is more evident during the Beaver Pond restoration.

In March 2015, when I began monitoring the campus with the camera traps, I hiked back towards the north end of the Beaver Pond to see how much water was in the pond. To my amazement, a coyote (Canis latrans) was sitting in the water on the rather warm March day. The coyote almost looked like it was sunbathing as it held its head high with its entire back end sitting in the water. It sniffed the air a couple of times and then spotted me and quietly ran off. No – I did not get a photo, but I thought it odd for a coyote sitting in the water. Yes – after that moment, I always carry my camera when exploring the campus.

When I checked the cameras in November 2017, I came across two different species this time checking out the water in late October 2017. One was a coyote and the other was a red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). I have no clue what it is about this particular spot at the Beaver Pond they liked so well. This was also the same spot a turkey vulture was captured bathing in September 2017.

Of course, the raccoons (Procyon lotor) were captured on many different nights wading and swimming in the same spot at the Beaver Pond. It’s remarkable catching their antics on camera.

Interesting findings continue to come out of this extended monitoring, especially on the birds.  It seems certain species love testing the waters.


Red-tailed Hawk