A bill that would allow landowners to hire bush pilots to fly marksmen who would shoot feral hogs won unanimous approval Wednesday from a legislative committee, despite one lawmaker raising questions about safety.
“This low-level flying is very dangerous,” said Rep. James Lockhart, a member of the House of Representatives Agriculture and Wildlife Committee.
Lockhart, D-Heavener, said he was concerned about pilots flying into power lines and questioned how they could tell property lines from the air, which could result in some livestock being shot by mistake.
Rep. Don Armes, House sponsor of Senate Bill 919, said bush pilots have had success using small, single-engine airplanes called Super Cubs to fly hunters close to the ground in Alaska to shoot coyotes.
“We've got a terrible problem in this state — it's called feral hogs,” said Armes, R-Faxon.
“There are places where this is not practical ... but we've got to leave something up to the people to do it, kind of take care of their own selves. We've got to leave a little bit of freedom out there and I think that's what this bill is trying to do.”
As far as the danger, Armes said many crop dusters fly safely at low levels to spray fields.
Armes said feral hogs continue to be a growing problem in southern Oklahoma as they root through crops and grasslands. They reproduce quickly and are a health risk because they carry diseases humans can catch, and they're not easily frightened. Some feral hogs recently came up to his house and rooted through the front lawn, he said.
Despite his concerns, Lockhart ended up voting for SB 919, which passed 15-0. It now goes to the House Calendar Committee, which will determine if it gets a hearing in the House.
Lawmakers in 2009 passed legislation that lets landowners who operate big game commercial hunting areas to hire a sharpshooter to kill feral hogs from a helicopter.
SB 919 removes the requirement that someone has to have a big game commercial hunting area license to use aircraft and gets rid of language that the aircraft be used only above land listed in the commercial hunting area license.