Politics
4:01 pm
Wed May 11, 2011

You Will Soon Be Able To Hunt Hogs From Helicopters

Farmers are already allowed to fire up a helicopter and gun down feral hogs tearing up their property. But a bill is now headed to the Governor's desk that will allow property owners to rent out seats in helicopters to anyone willing to pay for the privilege of hunting wild pork from the sky.

According to a note attached to the bill by its author, State Rep. Sid Miller (R-Stephenville), an estimated 2 million feral hogs in Texas are responsible for causing $400 million in damage to farms every year. The bill was also sponsored by State Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay).

The Senate approved the measure 29-2. Sen. Eddie Lucio raised concerns about the safety of people hunting from helicopters, according to the Houston Chronicle's politics blog.

When the measure cleared the Texas House last month in a 137-9 vote, one lawmaker told the San Antonio Express-News that she was worried about public health risks potentially associated with mass hog slaughter.

“The bill didn't contain any provision for cleanup (of the carcasses),” Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said. “The amount of hogs that may be killed in one outing could be dangerous to water supplies and to kids.”

It's not just property that wild hogs destroy, the can devour cute animals too. The Discovery Channel TV show, "Hogs Gone Wild", has documented how a team of animal specialists tried to prevent hogs from devouring sea turtle eggs on the beach.    

But perhaps the biggest question for the people who are thinking about renting a helicopter seat and gunning down some hog is, "How does it taste?" Some people consider it a delicacy. One man in Northern California has been breeding wild hogs in his quest to create an American version of Iberian ham.

Meanwhile, Houston Chronicle outdoors writer Shannon Tompkins says it is lean, delicious and perhaps "superior to almost all other wild game."

But getting that pork from pig to plate means having to carefully negotiate a potentially dangerous act: cleaning the hog.

A fair percentage of feral hogs carry viral and bacterial diseases transmissible to humans, including brucellosis, tularemia, samonellosis, anthrax, leptospirosis and toxoplasmosis.

She suggests using clean, sharp knives and wearing eye protection and latex gloves when you're handling a carcass. 

Pigs were first introduced into America by Spanish explorers in the 16th Century, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist Richard Taylor. Some were released and some escaped, leading to the propagation of the wild hog population.

To this day, wild hogs carry a significant cultural meaning in Texas.  For Sabinal, Texas - a small town of 2,000 or so about an hour west of San Antonio - it's been the inspiration behind an annual festival they've held for the past twenty years.  Here's what it looks like: