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The opening of the Texas 130 toll road extension went off without a hitch Wednesday, with no major collisions to speak of — then night fell, and the wildlife came out.
Vehicles and animals collided at least three times along the 41-mile road that connects south Austin to Seguin and boasts an 85 mph speed limit, the fastest in the country. Two hogs were hit, and one vehicle struck a deer.
No drivers were injured.
The animals may not have been so lucky, though their exact fates are unknown.
The fact that hogs played a part in the wrecks was no surprise to many who live in the Caldwell County area, where two of the collisions occurred. This is hog country.
“That is a known pig route,” said Caldwell County Precinct 1 Constable Victor “Smitty” Terrell, who heard one of the hog-versus-vehicle crashes on his police radio Wednesday night.
Texas claims the largest feral hog population in the U.S. — 2.6 million. It is so problematic that the state agriculture department runs a feral hog abatement program, including a contest called the “Hog Out Challenge,” in which counties compete to take the most swine by killing them, or trapping, snaring or capturing them “for purposes of immediate slaughter,” the rules say.
Caldwell County is competing in the challenge.
It’s unclear if road kill counts.
Lockhart Police Department Capt. John Roescher spotted at least three dead hogs on the side of Texas 130 at U.S. 183 on Thursday morning.
The sight didn’t alarm him “because we’re so used to seeing that around here,” Roescher said.
The damage can be serious. The state agriculture department said. Hogs, which can reach several hundred pounds, cause about $1,200 damage per collision.
But hogs aren’t the only animal drivers could encounter. Elsewhere on the road overnight, Department of Public Safety troopers responded to a pickup that struck a deer, said Chris Lippincott, spokesman for the SH 130 Concession Co., the private company that built and will maintain the toll road extension.
He said the company will monitor the wildlife situation now that the road is open. Security cameras on 80 percent of the road allow officials to watch the road 24/7.