Are There More Tigers in Texas Than in The Wild?

Written by Taiwo Victor
Updated: September 28, 2023
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The tiger is among the most stunning creatures to ever live, being the largest big cat in the world. It is an apex predator that hunts alone through various terrains all around the planet during the day. Most of us would picture a trip to western Asia or India if we wanted to see a lot of tigers, but only a few people would consider organizing a trip to Texas. However, the latter might be a more efficient use of your time. One of the most frequently repeated statements regarding tigers in the United States is that there are more tigers in Texas than in all of the tiger’s wild populations combined. But is that statement true? Are there really more tigers in Texas than in the wild?

Given their broad range of habitats, including forests, grasslands, savannas, and even swamps, it should not be surprising that tigers previously lived in a region that spanned from the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea to the Pacific Ocean and from Siberia to the Philippines. Today, their territory has significantly shrunk, and unfortunately, certain subspecies of these beautiful creatures are on the verge of extinction. This raises the possibility that there might not be as many tigers as we believe. This article will explore the tiger population in Texas and other interesting facts.

Are There More Tigers in Texas Than in the Wild?

Strongest cats - Tiger

There are about 2,000 to 5,000 tigers in Texas.

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In Texas, it is simpler to own a tiger than a dangerous dog. According to estimates, there could be around 2,000-5,000 tigers residing in this southern state of the United States, making Texas home to as many tigers as there are in the wild worldwide, which is estimated to be 5,000. While it may be a surprise to see a large wild cat relaxing in a front yard, Texas boasts a sizable tiger population. However, it is extremely tough to determine the precise number of tigers in Texas. Although owners are required by law to register their tigers with the state, many fail to do so.

With an estimated 5,000 big cats in captivity, the United States leads the world in tiger populations, with 8,000 tigers in captivity worldwide. Big cats are even kept as pets in backyards and houses in many US states where there are no laws prohibiting their keeping.

Although exact numbers are difficult to determine, India has by far the biggest population of wild tigers. As many as 3,346 tigers are thought to reside in India as of 2019, albeit this estimate is subject to change.

Does Texas Allow Tigers as Pets?

Deadliest Cats - Tiger

You can keep tigers as pets in Texas.


Yes, and you can have tigers as pets for a shockingly low price. Tigers born in captivity can cost anywhere between $900 and $2,500. Tiger ownership is at an all-time high because they are less expensive than many common pets and have a high “wow factor” due to their exotic nature.

Texas law mandates that anyone who owns a tiger maintain liability insurance coverage of at least $100,000. The Department of State Health and Human Services must receive a copy of the registration for dangerous animals that owners have registered with local health authorities. It should be noted that zoos with accreditation do not register animals similarly.

Additionally, each tiger must be kept in a cage with at least 300 square feet of area and an 8-foot fence. The standard for surrounding walls will range from a 12- to 16-foot minimum, depending on how the wall is erected. This cage must be covered, but not if that enclosure is more than 1,000 square feet.

Owners of wild animals may need to abide by additional laws and norms set forth by local governments. Keeping pet tigers is prohibited by the City of Houston. However, tigers may be kept as pets in unincorporated Harris County so long as they are maintained at least 1,000 feet away from other residences, schools, and daycare centers.

Why Are Tigers Endangered?

tiger laying down on top of wood logs

Due to the high demand for tiger bones, skin, and other exotic body parts for use in medicine, poaching is a widespread problem.

© Andi

There are a few reasons tigers are endangered, with some subspecies being gravely threatened. In fact, the tiger population’s first drop was so severe that current estimates indicate that it has decreased by 95% since the turn of the 20th century. The main causes of the decline’s severity were poaching and habitat deterioration.

Due to the high demand for tiger bones, skin, and other exotic body parts for use in medicine, poaching is a widespread problem. Even though these medications are ineffective, there is still a market for them. For instance, the South China tiger in China was effectively exterminated once the government branded them pests, and widespread slaughter commenced.

The other factor, besides poachers and hunters, is habitat loss. Tigers typically need 4 to 6 square miles of land in the wild to patrol and forage, and they probably won’t survive on anything less than this. Tigers lose their habitat as forest biomes are destroyed to make way for lumber, construction materials, and other resources.

What Will Happen if Tigers Become Extinct?

The tiger is a unique creature essential to an ecosystem’s diversity and health. To preserve the balance between herbivores and the vegetation they consume, a strong animal at the top of the food chain must control the population of wild ungulates.

While de facto conflicts between humans and tigers would end if the feline disappeared, new conflicts would arise, especially with the tiger’s prey, which would be more plentiful due to a lack of predation. Because the tiger can no longer manage it, the population of deer, wild pigs, antelopes, and gaurs will increase substantially if the animal goes extinct. Due to additional animals eating it, the amount of food will decrease. Smaller animals and insects will shift to our crops and farmlands if the vegetation in the rainforest declines. This will be an issue since they will devour all of our food and affect our population.

Technically speaking, the tiger also mitigates climate change by keeping other animals from consuming forests. If trees disappear, we lose a significant source of oxygen.

Bonus: Do Other States in the U.S. and Other Countries Allow Keeping Tigers as Pets?

A beautiful girl in black clothes with black hair posing next to a tiger. Symbol of the year 2022

Thousands of tigers are kept as pets by people all over the world.

Image: borisenkoket, Shutterstock


It seems that Texas is not alone in the pet tiger trend. While 21 states ban all dangerous exotic pets – the rest allow it with required permits. Four states, Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, have no laws at all on keeping dangerous wild animals as pets.

According to some estimates, Europeans are keeping as many as 100 million exotic pets. EU agriculture ministers are proposing the composition of a list of approved pets with the sale and keeping of animals not included to be automatically banned. According to a recently published paper on the subject, many of the species were captured from the wild, depleting natural populations. Private tiger keeping is legal in Germany, France, Spain, Ireland and the Czech Republic.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Volodymyr Burdiak/

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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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