How many nilgai are in Texas?

Nilgai were first introduced to Texas in the 1920s for game hunting, but some escaped. There is now a feral population in Texas. The nilgai’s healthy numbers are partly due to Hindus considering the antelope sacred. Males compete by threatening displays and wrestling, sometimes kneeling and lunging at each other with horns. Though not listed by agencies, nilgai suffer from habitat loss and poaching. Currently, 15,000 nilgai live in Texas and 10,000 in India.

The population saw a spurt in the 1940s, gradually spreading to adjoining ranches. Females can breed a year after birthing. Males in the same area were found to mate by two years old. First birth is a year later, though some females as young as one-and-a-half may mate.

Hunting nilgai has been popular for years. Nilgai antelope, or Blue Bulls, are the largest wild antelope in the US. Bulls weigh up to 500 pounds, mainly in southern Texas. Nilgai hunts are challenging yet rewarding for the skilled hunter. This fast, agile game requires an adept hunter.

I tell people to book a nilgai hunt soon. Some enjoy Texas hunting, others can’t bother. I was in the latter group until a 2013 hunt on the King Ranch changed my mind. Cabela’s invited me and I thought it would be like colonics – something I could dismiss without trying. But free-range nilgai are as wary as whitetails and a blast to hunt.

Are nilgai good eating?

The nilgai antelope meat has a mild flavor and texture much like veal. It is extremely low in fat, averaging under 1%. The meat of a cow is more tender than a bull’s. An adult nilgai stands about 5 feet tall and weighs up to 600 pounds. Unlike other antelope, male and female nilgai look different as adults. This is sexual dimorphism. Nilgai were introduced in Texas in the 1930s and have thrived. The nilgai makes low volume vocalizations like a “bwooah” when alerted. Nilgai meat contains protein, iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and antioxidants that protect the body. It can reduce inflammation and risk of heart disease. Though some compare nilgai to venison or bison, many are still curious to try this exotic, mildly gamey meat.

Who brought nilgai to Texas?

The nilgai were introduced to Texas in the 1920s and 1930s in a ranch near the King Ranch. The feral population spread to adjoining ranches toward the late 1940s. Nilgai flee up to 300 meters when alarmed. Accounts say nilgai were brought to the North King Ranch for conservation and exotic hunting. This led to a Texas population over 30,000 now. Here they largely graze grasses, crops, scrub and oak forests. Hunters kill them, but some groups object. One concern is nilgai spreading cattle fever ticks. Another is them acting as ‘pests’ on farms.

Ranchers brought nilgai from a California zoo decades ago when exotic quarry became fashionable. Now the native Indian species is a nuisance. They periodically slaughter nilgai via machine gun to prevent disease spread. Nilgai are massive.

The nilgai was introduced for recreation early 20th century. Some escaped private ranches, resulting in populations in Texas, Alabama and Mexico. Nilgai prefer grassland, bush plains and low hills. They run up to 29 mph if chased. Females and males look different.

Over 100,000 are in India. But nilgai was first of many Asian and African mammals brought to Texas. Some species like the oryx are more numerous here than their home habitat.

Managing invasive species integrated into ecosystems means asking hard questions. The King Ranch pioneered nilgai release. I saw giant nilgai hoof prints at the Sabal Palm Sanctuary on Texas’ southernmost border.

In the 1930s, the King Ranch bred nilgai as an alternative meat source. Now 35,000 feral nilgai roam, targets for hunters. Nilgai are native to India and Pakistan. The brush country suits their preferences.

Steven Rinella hunted nilgai at the long deserted Yturria ranch filled with wild animals not seen as game. He thought it an easy hunt given the ranch had 30,000 nilgai.

Nilgai genetics suits mountains. They have strong fronts and jump rock to rock. Good sight and smell mean hunters must be stealthy. Marksmanship matters since shots are distant. Their meat is like venison. Other cuts make sausage and pepperoni.

Are nilgai aggressive?

Nilgai, large antelopes native to the Indian subcontinent, possess a distinctive bluish-gray coat and white throat bibs. Males can weigh up to 240 kg, females 120 kg. These herbivores have ridges on their noses functioning as cooling mechanisms in hot environments. They live in small herds with one dominant male and several females and young ones.

Nilgai considered sacred by Hindus, so their numbers are healthy. Scientific name combines Latin and Greek words for “cow”, “deer”, “billy goat”, and “camel”. No subspecies exist, only found naturally on the Indian subcontinent.

In India, nilgai protected by 1972 Wildlife Protection Act. Main protected areas located throughout India. When chased, nilgai can run up to 48 kph. Besides a caribou, on my wish list for North America.

Neel gai is largest of all Asiatic antelopes. Debate over origin of “nilgai” name, literally meaning blue cow. Some indicate reverence residents held for animal, now called derogatory terms. Others reference male’s slate blue coloration.

Nile crocodiles opportunistic apex predators, very aggressive, capable of taking almost any animal within range. Diet consists mostly of fish, reptiles, birds and mammals.

Nilgai hunting in Texas surprisingly challenging and fun. Impressive eyesight, hearing and sense of smell make hunts an incredible experience. Hunts customized for still hunting, stalking or safari style.

Nilgai only one of four Indian antelopes still abundant as accorded same sacred status as cattle by Hindus. Largest Asian antelope found throughout northern Indian subcontinent. Easy to tell sex as males bluish-grey with horns, females orange coat with no horns. Both have tufted tail, tassel under neck, sloping back, white colorations.

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