AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — A new bill passed by the Texas Legislature would allow Lone Star State hunters to take to the skies in hot air balloons to help root out feral hogs and coyotes.
House Bill 3535, authored by Rep. Mark Keough, R-The Woodlands, was passed by the Texas Senate on Wednesday night.
If the bill is signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, it would amend the Parks and Wildlife Code to allow the taking of feral hogs and coyotes using a hot air balloon. It would take effect on Sept. 1.
The text of the bill says: “A qualified landowner or landowner’s agent, as determined by commission rule, may contract to participate as a hunter or observer in using a hot air balloon to take depredating feral hogs or coyotes under the authority of a permit issued under this subchapter.”
Texas law already allows the hunting of feral hogs from helicopters. That law is similar to the bill for hot air balloons in that a person must be a landowner or a qualified landowner’s agent to take part.
The Texas Parks & Wildlife defines a qualified landowner or landowner’s agent as a person who has not been convicted of, pleaded no contest to, or received deferred adjudication for a Class A misdemeanor, felony or violation of the Lacey Act, which bans trafficking in illegal wildlife.
For coyotes and other predators that cause damage to livestock and crops, the Texas Department of Agriculture lets people become certified in the use of pesticide to control them. The allowed pesticides include M-44 sodium cyanide and livestock protection collars.
Courthouse News spoke with Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who supports HB 3535.
He calls the use of hot air balloons “another tool” in the battle to get rid of feral hogs. He said Texas might even see drones being used to combat the hogs someday.
Miller says the high reproductive rate of feral hogs makes their population difficult to manage. He estimates that the hogs cause $80 to 90 million in damages to property in the state per year, which includes both rural and urban areas.
The commissioner thinks hot air balloons will be more successful than helicopter gunners in taking out the hogs. He cites the fact that balloons will make less noise and be “more stealth” than helicopters, which often scare off the hogs before hunters can take aim.
He also says that hunting from balloons is safer than from helicopters and more hunters can take part in a balloon hunt, thereby increasing the number of hogs that can be eliminated.
Miller previously supported the use of a feral hog bait called Kaput Feral Hog Lure, but plans for implementing the limited-use pesticide were put on hold by a lawsuit from a wild boar meat company.
The company questioned the safety of the warfarin-based poison for other wildlife and domestic animals. It also had concerns over the economic and environmental impact of the poison. The bait maker has since withdrawn its registration for the product.
Bryan, Texas-based HeliBacon currently offers helicopter hog-hunting tours for licensed hunters. HeliBacon spokesman Chris Britt said Friday that the company does not plan on offering hot air balloon hunting.
“I’m not opposed to it but it honestly sounds kinda boring,” Britt said. “You ever been on a hot air balloon ride and a low level helicopter chase with machine guns? They aren’t really comparable.”