Texas State Representatives Sid Miller and Wayne Christian are pushing to pass a state law that allows hunters to hunt feral hogs and coyotes from helicopters on private land in all of Texas’ 254 counties. The two champions of this bill filed a similar bill last session that did not pass. Reps. Miller and Christian represent rural areas of Central Texas and East Texas respectively.
The bill, HB 716, passed the Texas House of Representatives yesterday 137-9 garnering an overwhelming support from Democrats and Republicans alike, and more importantly from rural and urban representatives. The next step is for a Senator to pick the bill up in the Senate and pass it in that chamber.
Hunting and gun enthusiast Texas Governor Rick Perry is said have taken an interest in this bill, and I expect that he is chomping at the bit to get a chance to take feral hogs and coyotes from a helicopter. As we know Governor Perry has had no problem in the past taking wily coyotes out with his daily legal concealed carry weapon, a Ruger .380.
Not only will this bill allow local entrepreneurs to create jobs and provide a much needed service to landowners, it will also save $7.50 per every dollar spent on feral hog control. Once this bill is passed landowners can lease out their land like a traditional deer lease to sport hunters wanting to hunt hogs and coyotes from helicopters. Helicopter hunting companies could lease the land directly from the landowner and then sell seats on their helicopter on “guided” aerial feral hog and coyote hunts. Currently it is illegal to buy or lease a seat on a helicopter to hunt feral hogs and coyotes.
Why does Texas need this bill? Keep reading below the jump to find out.
According to the Texas A&M University Institute for Renewable Natural Resources as reported in the Texas Tribune there are an estimated 1.9 million to 3.4 million feral hogs in Texas, in all 254 counties and they are multiplying beyond control. Feral hogs may have two litters per year with 4 to 8 and possibly as many as 13 in a litter. The A&M study found it would take roughly five years for the feral hog population to double — meaning 60 to 70 percent of the feral hog population will need to be removed annually in order to keep the numbers stable.
The millions of feral hogs in Texas are responsible for $400 million in direct damage to Texas property every year according to an estimate by the Texas Wildlife Services.
Efforts including sterilization and poisoning of feral hogs is still being studying but neither strategy has received FDA approval presently and is not expected anytime soon. Also sterilization and poisoning control methods run into the problem of harming other prized wildlife with the current delivery methods available.
In comparison helicopter aerial shooting is utilized to reduce high hog populations across the state and to-date is considered the most effective means for fighting this exponentially-increasing population. According to the Texas Department of Agriculture, over 75 % of the State has suitable terrain and cover for aerial gunning operations targeting feral hogs and coyotes. How cool does that sound, aerial gunning operations targeting feral hogs and coyotes.
Because both feral hogs and coyotes are considered depredating species, Texas Parks and Wildlife currently allows landowners to aerial hunt hogs and coyotes on their own property and also allows them to pay to have a “service provider” hunt these animals for them; this, however, can be quite costly for the landowner.
House Bill 716 works to help landowners alleviate their feral hog and coyote problem and also reduce their cost associated with hunting them, by directing Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to adopt rules governing the hunting of feral hogs or coyotes from helicopters for hunting. This legislation also gives Texas Parks and Wildlife the ability to make rules governing the safety of all involved as they do for all sport hunting.
These rules would permit landowners to allow hunters to hunt on their land much like a traditional hunting lease, thus saving the landowner money (instead he makes money) and helping alleviate the devastating Texas feral hog and coyote problem.
In 2010 the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department issued 31 new permits and 85 renewals to companies seeking to provide aerial wildlife management, aka allowing them to hunt feral hogs from helicopters. As you can imagine it is very expensive to lease these services.