Hunters will be able to take to the air starting Friday to shoot wild pigs.
“Feral hogs are a huge problem in southeastern Oklahoma, and lawmakers have been working to create opportunities for individuals hunting them,” said Rep. Dustin Roberts, R-Durant, whose legislation permits aerial hunting of the animals.
The hogs, which destroy millions of dollars in crops, are an even bigger problem in Texas, where Dustin Johnson flies hunters in a helicopter.
“It's been a gold mine for me,” he said while flying his helicopter back after a hunt. “Just now looking out of my window, I can see about 12 to 14 hogs just rutting around. We'll have to mark this area and bring our next group back here tomorrow to shoot.”
As chief executive officer for Cedar Ridge Aviation in Knox City, Texas, Johnson, 26, has been flying over the Texas Panhandle, but he said he soon will be looking for spots to hunt in Oklahoma, given the new law.
Roberts said the bill will help to control the spread of hogs and limit property damage.
Nationwide, feral hogs are estimated to cause more than $800 million in crop damage annually.
Russell Stevens, a wildlife and fisheries consultant for the Noble Foundation in Ardmore, said hogs are nowhere near the problem in Oklahoma that they are in Texas. But with how rapidly they reproduce, they soon could be.
“We can see that their population has been exploding and spreading across the state,” he said. “We think they are being helped along by humans so they have more game to hunt in some areas. Most don't realize just how badly that impacts the environment or just how bad feral hogs can be.”
Feral hogs are not native to North America but were brought to Florida with early Spanish explorers in the 1500s.
Stevens said hog stories have become as overblown as any hunting or fishing tale.
“There is a lot of misinformation or overexaggeration or overexcitement,” he said. “People like to tell tales of Hogzilla. But in reality, those are usually fed by people and let loose so they can say they bagged a big one.”