Sarah Palin made headlines during her 2008 vice presidential run for supporting a controversial hobby: The aerial hunting of wolves. Now, the 2012 Republican presidential frontrunner, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is giving helicopter-riding hunters something else to shoot at: Feral hogs. Here, a brief guide:
How bad is Texas' pig problem?
More than 2 million feral hogs are rooting around in the state (roughly half of the national total). Most are descendants of pigs American pioneers allowed to roam free. Even though Texas' wildlife services agency spends $25 million a year to control the population, the wild swine still manage to do $52 million in crop damage annually. They also tear up lawns, parks, and golf courses. Republican State Sen. Sid Miller owns a commercial nursery that some of the animals ravaged just last week. "They probably did $3,000 damage," he said, as quoted by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "It looked like World War II where they went through."
So what is Perry doing about it?
He signed a law that, as of Thursday, allows hunters in the Lone Star State to rent a seat on a helicopter and shoot as many wild hogs as they want. One Houston firm, Vertex Helicopters, requires hunters to take a $350 safety course before they can book a $475-an-hour hunt aboard one of its "pork choppers." Hog-targeting hunters from New York, Kansas, and Missouri have taken the course and plan to travel to Texas to blast away at pigs. "These are people who are really, really serious about shooting things," says Mike Morgan, Vertex's president, as quoted in The New York Times.
Surely some people are upset about this, right?
Indeed. "For one thing, it's cruel because the pigs often end up being only wounded," says John Johnson at Newser. Also, this might not even solve the problem, especially in other parts of the country enamored of the idea of heli-hunting pigs. "San Diego County, Calif., has been overrun by a new wild pig population rumored to have been [trapped and] released in order to start a hunting program," says Mark Essig in The New York Times. So encouraging hunting in Texas might actually be helping the scourge spread.