Texas may let hunters shoot pigs from choppers

Bill proposed to thin estimated 2 million voracious feral hogs roaming state

MERTZON, Texas - Millions of wild pigs weighing up to 300 pounds have been tearing up crops, trampling fences and eating just about anything in their path in Texas. But now they had better watch their hairy backs.

A state lawmaker is proposing to allow ordinary Texans with rifles and shotguns to shoot the voracious, tusked animals from helicopters.

For years, ranchers in the Lone Star State have hired professional hunters in choppers to thin the hogs' fast-multiplying ranks. Now state Rep. Sid Miller of the Fort Worth area wants to bring more firepower to the task by issuing permits to sportsmen.

"I've had numerous calls and complaints that someone needs to do something," Miller said. "We're losing ground on this problem."

If approved, it could be the first program of its kind in the nation. Some other states, like Gov. Sarah Palin's Alaska, allow aerial hunting, but only to control predators, such as bears and wolves.

Some Texans worry about collateral damage.

"If they're going to open up to where you can do this and anybody who's got a helicopter can go off to an old boy's place and hunt, that's going to be bad," said Jay Smith, owner of Smith Helicopters in Cotulla. Some people "may get confused and shoot the rancher's dog or a calf."

Miller gave assurances the hunting would be closely regulated, though details on such things as how many hunters would be allowed to take part, and how many hogs they would be permitted to kill, have yet to be worked out.

Bubba factor
"You're not going to have some bubba up there going, 'Pass me a beer and ammo' and hunting some hogs," the legislator said. "We certainly want to do it right."

Many hunters and landowners will probably leave the carcasses in the field, just as they do now. Wild hogs that are gunned down cannot be sold for meat under U.S. agriculture regulations. (Moreover, wild boar is said by some to be tough and gamey.)

An estimated 2 million wild hogs are causing $52 million a year in crop damage in Texas, according to agricultural experts. Pigs that they are, they eat just about anything, including the carcasses of their own brethren. They trample crops, dig up plants with their snouts and steal animal feed. Entire peanut farms have been stripped.

And the pasture-wrecking porkers are causing trouble well beyond farms. Authorities in Texas are reporting an increase in collisions between hogs and cars, while golf courses and suburbs are increasingly finding turf uprooted by hogs.

The animals are descended from hogs introduced into Texas by Spanish explorers more than 300 years ago. But their numbers began booming in the 1980s.

The big ones have no natural predators. Not even a coyote will tangle with a pig bigger than 20 pounds.

'Pork chopper'
During a recent pass in his helicopter over Mertzon in West Texas, Kyle Lange, a professional hunter who is paid to pick off wild hogs from the air in what some are calling a "pork chopper," offered a glimpse of the magnitude of the problem.

As his helicopter flew over, several packs of hogs that had been rooting around in the brush or napping in the sun suddenly scattered in all directions, with piglets scampering to keep close to their mothers, the little hairs on their backs blown back by the breeze from the chopper.

"You can kill 300 in a day from up here in the Panhandle and you've just slowed them down is all," Lange said over the whump-whump of his two-seat chopper.

Wildlife experts have tried less brutal methods to control their numbers. But the hogs are smart and have learned to avoid traps, and a birth control pill for female hogs is still in development. Many experts agree aerial hunting works.

Nearly 1,100 permits to kill hogs from the air were issued in Texas last year, up from 201 in 2000. Under Miller's bill, weekend hunters would be able to get permits too, though they would also have to pay landowners for the right to hunt on their property.

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29287057/

Tags: Animal-Rights, Animal-Welfare, Animals, Boars, Hunting, Texas, Wildlife, feral-hogs

Views: 16

Replies to This Discussion

This is a difficult predicament. On the one hand I can see the need to protect food crops, but on the other, the pigs are just doing what comes naturally to them. Plus, I think being shot to death sounds like a terribly painful way to die. What to do?
I have a crazy redneck uncle who lives in lower Alabama (for some reason they always say lower) near Mobile who kept dogs just for the purpose of hunting wild boars. They are very dangerous. He had bay dogs who would locate them and bark until they caught up and then they would unleash the catch dogs who would "catch" the boars. I am not sure why they did this. I never asked. He even had some with babies penned up in his backyard inside electric fencing. The markings and coloring on the babies them look like little furry watermelons! He never entered the pen without his handgun. He also said they were the perfect way to dispose of a body because they would consume every bit bones and all. I am not joking. He was very creepy.
Sounds like a scene from Hannibal. Does your uncle answer the phone, Hello Sheryl, in his best Hannibal Lector voice?

I'm sure something should be done about the hogs; they are probably destroying the environment. It seems like they could find a better way, less dangerous to other animals (and probably people) to do it. Evidently it's not even effective, so they ought to work on the hog birth control. (I'm sure that is not the most complex thing in the world to develop.)

The article mentions shooting "predators like wolves and bears" from helicopters, as if that is acceptable. I wouldn't want a pig to be shot, but shooting animals that are supposed to be there is much worse, I think. (I was hoping Sarah Palin would fall out of the helicopter the next time she went up to shoot wolves.)
Yeah, this is part of the problem when non-native species are introduced into an environment. This is the same problem with rabbits in Australia, or that island that is now nothing but snakes for the most part. (Something I saw on PBS once. Ships inadvertently brought snakes to the island with cargo, and the snakes took over because they had no natural predators. The snakes decimated the native animals by eating them all. I guess they just eat each other now.)

Clearly, farmers have a legit complaint, and the world needs food right now, so it is not like we can just let crops get destroyed.

Additionally, birth control would be hard to administer, and it does not have any immediate benefits. The benefits would come in time only providing that the hogs were living and dying naturally.

Yet shooting them seems cruel, as it is hardly their fault. They're just trying to earn a living like the rest of us.
Exactly, invasive species can decimate an ecosystem. I happen to know that there is no real laws about hunting hogs in Texas. It's free range throughout the year, with no limits. But I don't know how many hunters there are and how often they harvest animals. But if you have to hire professional hunters to come in and thin out packs/herds/gaggles or whatevers, then it is a VERY serious problem. I mean, why hire people to go out and do what any farmer could/would do himself?!

Yes, birthcontrol would be hard to adminester. What are you going to do? Put it in a food supply and just throw it around and hope ONLY female hogs (and only breeding age ones) consume it? What will happen to other animals that eat it? Is it poisonous to other species? How are you going to test it on EVERY other species (from lizards to birds to tortises to your coyotes) that could eat the loaded bait? It's a lot to ask.

Shooting isn't all that cruel compared to other forms of nuisance animal control. I've heard or read about poisoning, dead fall pits, steel traps...the list goes on. A semi-well placed shot is rather instantaneous. Lethal injection is the only other way I'd like to go...nice and quiet, just slip into a drowsey sleep...
I don't know how hard the birth-control would be to administer, I'm not a hog contraception expert. They brought it up so I thought it was some kind of option that would actually work if they just developed it.

I agree that shooting is not the worst way to kill something (or die from, if we're picking methods we'd choose for ourself). It seems as if shooting things from helicopters is the problem here. Regular hunting must not be working. Isn't it open season on wild hogs most places? It is in WI, and we don't even have that big of a problem with them.
Wow... did Sarah P. move to Texas recently?
That's a tough one. Something needs to be done about the pigs, but at the same time shooting things from a helicopter just seems like a very bad idea. Maybe they need to find a way to make giant coyotes. :D
LOL That's great! Giant coyotes! Sounds like a 'made-for-ScFi Channel' movie...ROTFLMAO

Well, once the hawg problem was dealt with, we'd have to hire Bruce Campbell away from the USA channel (Burn Notice) so he could save us from the Super-oytes! LOL

I smell an Oscar!
Saving crops = good.
shooting animals to do so = not so good.
No crops = hungry people
how about humanely killing some animals to save crops AND feed hungry people...


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