Helicopter hog hunting is a step closer to becoming a common practice in Oklahoma, with legislation that would allow aerial hunting of feral hogs being approved unanimously in a State House committee.
Wild hogs cause an estimated $500 million in damage nationwide each year to farms, forests and wildlife habitat.
Supporters of helicopter hunting say wild hogs are much more than just a nuisance. The hogs multiply rapidly and often cause extensive damage just as fast.
"They've been along the Red River for quite some time, but they've moved north and they've expanded to areas they haven't been historically," said Dwayne Elmore.
Elmore is the state wildlife specialist with the OSU cooperative extension. He said hogs are a huge concern for many Oklahoma farmers and ranchers.
"They're kind of the poster child for a bad exotic species," Elmore said.
Proposed legislation is intended to help control that poster child of bad species by allowing helicopter hunting of wild hogs in Oklahoma.
Texas already allows aerial hunting.
"They can impact timber resources, water quality, soil, forage, cattle forage, and they also carry diseases that are transmittable to both human and domestic stock," Elmore said.
The measure would allow Oklahoma landowners or people they hire to get state permits to hunt hogs by helicopter.
Feral hogs are considered an invasive non-native species, and since they have few natural predators, their numbers are growing and the amount of damage they cause is getting worse.
"They're made to push soil up to get insects in the soil or plant material, root stocks, so they're very capable of doing a lot of damage, especially in loose or moist soils," Elmore said.
He said the downside of using helicopters is the cost. Trapping is more efficient, but in some cases, aerial hunting could help.
He said the hogs are too entrenched to eliminate, but managing the problem is necessary.
If the measure passes this session, it would go into effect November 1.