A publication aimed at farmers and ranchers says Texas is home to most of the nation’s feral pigs.
Southwest Farm Press declared in a January news story that while 39 states have reported wild pig problems, “Texas is home to more feral pigs than any other state — an estimated 50 percent to 75 percent of all feral swine in the nation.”
Really all of that for Texas by its lonesome? We wondered.
From our previous feral hog investigations, we already suspected that Texas, with its vast open spaces and habitat-friendly Gulf Coast, was home to more of the pesky animals than any other state.
Our attempts to verify that part of the publication’s claim led us to a South Carolina expert, Jack Mayer, who responded by emailing us his 2014 paper finding Texas to be home to the most wild hogs.
According to the paper, 99 percent of U.S. wild pigs live in 10 states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.
“As an individual state, Texas had the largest numbers,” the paper says, accounting for 30 percent (1.8 million) to 41 percent (3.4 million) of the nation’s total, depending on which estimates are chosen. States with the next-most feral hogs, the paper suggests, were Georgia and Florida.
We also decided to see how feral pig populations stacked up when compared with human populations of each state. By that metric, Oklahoma led with nearly 13 hogs per 100 human residents, and Texas landed fifth with a little under 10 hogs per 100 people.
We also asked Southwest Farm Press the basis of its finding that Texas was home to “50 percent to 75 percent” of U.S. feral hogs.
“Fair question, tough topic,” the story’s author, Logan Hawkes, replied, adding that every feral hog count offered is an estimate.
Hawkes specified that he reached his finding that 50 to 75 percent of U.S. feral hogs reside in Texas drawing on information from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Hawkes said that “if the U.S. population is estimated as much as 6 million feral swine (USDA-APHIS), and the Texas population is as much as an estimated 4 million feral swine (Texas AgriLife), then I believe my percentage would be on target. If we take the lower estimated figures instead of the highest, then that percentage would, of course, be less. Again, the range is wide, and all numbers are estimated. I should have pointed that out, in retrospect.”
Gail Keirn of the APHIS National Wildlife Research Center was quoted in February 2017 saying that there are probably between 5 million and 6 million invasive wild pigs in at least 35 states. More recently, the inspection service has said the national count exceeds 6 million.
Per feral pigs in Texas, Southwest Farm Press pointed out that Texas AgriLife said in a 2012 report that Texas was home to 1 million to 4 million feral hogs.
But that 2012 report, we found, presents the described estimate of 1 million to 4 million feral hogs in Texas (in the past tense) before declaring a lower estimate.
The report initially states: “Often, the number of feral hogs are reported from 1 to 4 million in Texas. These estimates are not based on scientific studies.”
But the authors subsequently describe their efforts to gauge feral hog concentrations in different parts of Texas and to adjust for suitable hog habitats before reaching their own estimate.
“By multiplying the density estimate to the total potential suitable feral hog habitat,” the report says, “we estimated the number of feral hogs statewide to be between 1.8 and 3.4 million, with the average being 2.6 million.”
We also connected with the USDA’s Keirn, who agreed that Texas has one of the country’s largest “feral swine populations.” Yet Keirn said the state’s share of U.S. feral hogs probably runs closer to 30 percent to 50 percent.
Nationally, Keirn told us, the feral hog population is “currently estimated at over 6 million and is rapidly expanding. Range expansion over the last few decades is due to a variety of factors, including their adaptability to a variety of climates and conditions, translocation by humans and a lack of natural predators.”
Keirn similarly noted the 2012 Texas report suggesting an average of 2.6 million feral hogs statewide and said that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department estimates there are more than 1.5 million feral swine in the state.
We shared some of what we’d gleaned about U.S. feral hogs in Texas with Southwest Farm Press, which soon corrected its story to say: “Texas is home to more feral pigs than any other state — an estimated 30 percent to 50 percent of all feral swine in the nation, according to USDA.”
The publication said: “Texas is home to more feral pigs than any other state — an estimated 50 percent to 75 percent of all feral swine in the nation.”
Texas remains home to the most feral hogs, we confirmed, but estimates put Texas’ share of the overall feral hog population at about one-third — considerably short of 50 percent to 75 percent.
We rate this claim Half True.
Southwest Farm Press
Statement: “Texas is home to more feral pigs than any other state — an estimated 50 percent to 75 percent of all feral swine in the nation.”