- Highest ranking among the myths are estimates of the actual number of feral hogs in Texas, Higginbotham said. A common number that has been bandied about for years is 1 to 4 million. But there was just no data to support this estimate.
- That is, not until Dr. Roel Lopez recently used geographic information system procedures to turn the guesstimates into reliable estimates.
Damage no myth
One thing about feral hogs is definitely not a myth—the huge amount of damage they do to crops, wildlife habitat and landscapes, Higginbotham said. And from all indications, the damage they do is expanding in scope and range.
"Feral hogs were once largely a rural or agricultural issue in Texas, inflicting over $52 million in damage annually," he said. "But the porkers have literally moved to town and are now causing significant damage in urban and suburban communities. This damage includes the rooting of landscapes, parks, lawns, golf courses, sports fields and even cemeteries, as they search for food. It has been estimated that a single hog can cause over $200 damage annually."
The $200-per-hog estimate doesn't include the damage feral hogs do as they compete with other wildlife species, such as whitetail deer, for food and habitat. And some of the species challenged by feral hog invasions are endangered.
It's important to keep in perspective that the bottom line is not an actual hog-head count, but the damage they do and how to develop ways to reduce it.
"For those landowners actively engaged in deer management, tolerance of feral hogs should be very, very low," Higginbotham said. "Can we (significantly) reduce the damage feral hogs do through control efforts? The answer is 'absolutely yes.'
"Texas AgriLife Extension Service has demonstrated that through education and outreach and Wildlife Services-led control efforts, damage can be significantly reduced by control efforts," he said. "In a 2006-07 study funded by the Texas Department of Agriculture, agricultural damage was reduced by 66 percent via control efforts in just two years."
Since 2007, subsequent studies done by AgriLife Extension and again funded by the state’s department of agriculture confirmed that control measures such as trapping and shooting "prevented millions of dollars in damage by reducing feral hog populations," he said.
"Landowners remain the first line of defense since Texas is 95 percent privately owned land," Higginbotham said. "This means arming the public with Best Management Practices and using various legal control methods to abate the damage by reducing feral hog populations."
For more information on feral hogs, visit the AgriLife Extension website, "Coping with Feral Hogs," at http://feralhogs.tamu.edu.