In May, the Texas Legislature passed a bill that allows for the hunting of feral hogs and coyotes from hot air balloons. The bill was a response to the fast-growing feral hog population in Texas. There are estimated to be 2 million feral hogs in the state. Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller says the feral hogs uproot crops and city parks, trample across highways, and cause more than 50 million dollars in damage a year.
Efforts to slow the population growth have so far been ineffective. The Texas Legislature started by removing restrictions on taking hogs year-round. Additionally, there is no limit to the number of hogs a hunter can kill. Next, the Legislature legalized hunting via helicopter, known as the “pork-chopper” bill. That measure has largely been unsuccessful at reducing the hog population due to the high cost and difficulty of shooting accurately from an unstable aircraft.
Now the Legislature is turning to hot air balloons. H.B. 3535, sponsored by Representative Mark Keough, reads as follows:
relating to the taking of certain feral hogs and coyotes using a hot air balloon.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
SECTION 1. Subchapter G, Chapter 43, Parks and Wildlife Code, is amended by adding Section 43.1076 to read as follows:
Sec. 43.1076. USING HOT AIR BALLOONS TO TAKE CERTAIN ANIMALS. 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.
SECTION 2. As soon as practicable after the effective date of this Act, the Parks and Wildlife Commission shall adopt rules as necessary to implement Section 43.1076, Parks and Wildlife Code, as added by this Act.
SECTION 3. This Act takes effect September 1, 2017.
Interestingly, the bill was largely uncontroversial. It received no testimony during its committee hearings and passed both chambers with unanimous support. The bill was then signed into law by Governor Abbott and will take effect on September 1. In fact, the most pressing concerns related to the bill come from Representative John Cyrier. He is concerned about consumer safety related to the increase in balloon traffic that may result, given that ballooning has fewer regulations than other commercial aircraft.