Hog Wild: Feral Pigs May Be Gunned Down From Hot Air Balloons in Texas

Ever wanted to shoot a wild boar, but couldn't get close enough without scaring it away? Sure, you can hover over one in a chopper, as is legal in Texas, but that's expensive and prone to scaring the beasts away. Lawmakers in the state have approved a new way of killing feral hogs and coyotes: shooting them from hot air balloons. As reported by the Associated Press, a bill to allow hog-hunting via balloon will now go to Texas governor Greg Abbott for his signature, which would make it law.

The legislation, House Bill 3535, passed late Wednesday and would require a license to hunt in balloons, which offer a more stable platform for hunters to set up their shots. Of course, balloons are difficult to control, pigs are fast runners, and much of Texas is covered in tree cover that would make hunting difficult from the air.

Representative Mark Keough, a Republican and pastor from The Woodlands, tells the Texas Observer that the method may not be very effective, but it's worth a try. "We've got a problem here, and we are willing to fix it ourself," he said. "We have that Western, swashbuckling, cowboying type of way to deal with things. It's part of the culture, it's different than any other state."

The feral pig problem in Texas is no joke. There are an estimated 2.5 million of the animals and growing, causing more than $50 million in damage per year. They do this as they "smash through fences, decimate crops, eat baby livestock, dig up internet and water lines, ruin golf courses and cause car accidents when they dart across the road," Kate Murphy astutely notes in the New York Times. "They also carry diseases that have the potential to devastate cattle and domesticated pig operations, as well as infect humans."

In case you're wondering, the law to allow chopper-driven hog hunts—known as the "pork chopper" bill—was sponsored by Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, then a state rep. Miller supports the controversial use of poison to kill feral hogs, a method recently approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. The chemical, known as warfarin, also is used in humans to treat blood clots but is considerably more deadly in many animals. That move has elicited outrage from scientists, wildlife officials and hunters who say that the technique is inhumane, often causing animals to suffer and bleed for a week or more before dying. Australia used warfarin to kill many feral pigs before outlawing the process on the grounds that it causes "extreme suffering." There also is serious concern that people could accidentally eat poisoned hog meat, no small concern considering wild boar are routinely eaten throughout the south and can fetch high prices.

If passed by the governor, the bill would go into effect Sep. 1, 2017.