Separating fact from fiction is becoming a little easier as research reveals more about Texas feral hogs, but we still have a lot to learn about this exotic pest that has inhabited our state for the past 450 years, says Jason Ott, Texas AgriLife Extension agent for Nueces County, Robstown.

Ott debunks many of the prevailing feral hog myths in his weekly newsletter.

“Tops among the myths are estimates of the actual number of feral hogs in Texas, according to Billy Higginbotham, Texas AgriLife Extension wildlife and fisheries specialist. A common number that has been bantered about for years is 1 to 4 million. But there was just no data to support this estimate.”

Ott said that changed when Dr. Roel Lopez, associate director of the Texas A&M University Institute for Renewable Natural Resources, recently used geographic information system (GIS) procedures to turn guesstimates into reliable estimates.  “Using GIS techniques, Lopez was able to quantify first the extent of the feral hog habitat in Texas. He estimates that approximately 134 million acres, or 79 percent of the state’s 170 million acres, represents feral hog habitat.

 

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 “By knowing the range of feral hog habitat and the species population density in various types of Texas environments, Lopez came up with a population estimate that has some meat to it,” Ott adds. Lopez figures the actual number ranges from a low of 1.9 million to a high of 3.4 million.

Exaggerated claims of feral hog population-growth rates are a related myth, Ott says.

“Many of the population guesstimates are based on a purely arbitrary number of hogs in Texas being set at 1 million in the 1970s. This number, which also had no research basis, is often extrapolated using another bit of misinformation: because of feral hogs’ high birth rates, their population is doubling every year.”