Texas’ “Hogs-by-Helicopter” Law is a Booming Success

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State lawmakers around the country seeking to lead their constituencies out of economic woe may want to make note of a new Texas law that’s having very positive financial effects for the state. The law allows landowners to sell permits for taking invasive and destructive feral hogs via helicopter and is being lauded as a huge success. The writer of the bill, Representative Sid Miller (R – Stephenville), said the law is a “win-win-win,” because of the positive results it is producing for all stakeholders.

“Farmers and ranchers are going from having the expense themselves to making income from it,” said Miller in an interview with The Dallas Morning News.

Since the bill was signed into law in September 2011, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has issued 97 aerial-take permits, according to Harmony Garcia, who is in charge of issuing permits for the department. Twenty three of the 97 permits were to new holders. The permits are officially termed “Aerial Wildlife Management Permits” issued for the purpose of managing destructive species and the TPWD makes an effort to specifically note that aerial sport hunting of animals is illegal under state and federal law in an FAQ on the department’s website. There have been 1,716 authorizations issued to landowners to allow the excursions, 1,422 of which were probably for the purpose of controlling animals like hogs.

Participants are paying about $300 per hour for a seat in a helicopter to take feral hogs. The expeditions typically last three to five hours.

Farmers and ranchers were among the group of people most excited about the new law. They were the ones whose had land torn up, crops eaten, seeds uprooted and more by a rapidly growing population of feral hogs. These mostly-nocturnal hogs could potentially cause thousands of dollars in damage and ruin crops within one or two days.

Previously, landowners had to spend their own money to hire a helicopter company to eradicate the beasts. They also had to pay for a licensed pilot and shooter to be on board the flight. Now, in-state and out-of-state persons with permits from TPWD all have a shot at the quickly-reproducing hogs.

Still, hogs reproduce so quickly that this new law is just one more measure among many to keep the population down, and not an end-all solution.

The hogs “are so prolific that if you go and kill most of them in a specific area and come back in about six months, they have repopulated,” said Jim Barnhill, a coordinator between landowners and helicopter companies. “They just grow exponentially.”

Nevertheless, it’s one method for helping to control the invasive species that has positive economic effects for the state and its citizens.

Image from Steve Hillebrand/USFWS on flickr