Hardly a day goes by that the feral hog invasion doesn’t draw media mention, but the math associated with many of the reports has been mostly speculative – until now, says a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.
A new publication, “Feral Hog Population Growth, Density and Harvest in Texas (SP-472)” puts facts behind figures.
Jared Timmons, AgriLife Extension Plum Creek Watershed Feral Hog Education Program assistant in San Marcos, says the new publication has solid numbers backed by research to substantiate many of the claims made by those following the feral hog invasion. The publication available for $1 per copy joins more than a dozen other feral hog-related publications available at http://agrilifebookstore.org.
“It’s pretty well accepted that feral hogs cause at least $52 million in agricultural losses each year in Texas,” Timmons says. “But what’s poorly understood are the pests’ population dynamics; their survival, reproduction and density, for example. The work represented in this publication literally puts facts to figures when it comes to this invasive species that exhibits the highest reproductive capability of any hoofed animal. That trait alone makes population reduction difficult.”
The publication reports the number of feral hogs in the state as between one million and four million. These estimates are not based on scientific fact, though increased reports of damage suggest the statewide population is growing and expanding in range.
By examining a number of scientific studies throughout the southeastern United States and Texas, the publication authors were able to create a statewide mathematical model of feral hog populations using sex, age and reproductive characteristics.
“The population model estimated an 18-21% annual population growth with the current average statewide population being 2.6 million head,” Timmons says. “Using these improved population figures, agencies and landowners can better understand the scope of the feral hog problem in Texas.
“Bottom-line, it’s not good. In order to hold our feral hog population at its current level, the annual harvest rate needs to be at least 66% for the next five years or more. This alone should be a major cause for concern since the estimated annual harvest is currently only 29%.”
Support for the Plum Creek Watershed Feral Hog program is provided through Clean Water Act §319(h) Nonpoint Source funding from the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.