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Feral hog hunt by helicopter concerns local hunters

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - On a chilly winter day, the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area looks barren. But hunters say it's teeming with feral hogs.

"Just my dogs, we caught 57 hogs this year," said Bradley Huff.

"Fifty-seven in probably about the 13 days out of 28, because we can't hunt everyday because you've gotta let your dogs rest," said Daniel Babb.

State wildlife officials say those efforts aren't enough to cut down on the exploding population, so they're taking the hunt to the air.

Next week, professional hunters will shoot feral hogs from helicopters hovering over the marsh.

"We have to do something now to get these feral hogs under control," says state wildlife veterinarian Jim LaCour. "The helicopter is the fastest and - believe it or not - most economical means to get a large number of hogs down on the ground in a short period of time."

LaCour said aerial hunting can bring down up to 300 hogs in one day. He said the non-native animals are destroying local wildlife and damaging protective wetlands.

"They do cause marsh damage," LaCour said. "They eat turtle eggs, shore bird eggs. In the woods, they eat the acorn crop that usually sustains the deer through the wintertime."

Some, though, don't agree with the state's plan to reduce the feral hog numbers. Area hunters feel they could make a bigger dent in the population if the state would just extend the season.

This is more than a sport for them.

Wildlife officials don't plan to remove the hogs they kill. They say the meat can't be donated to area food banks because the animals can transmit serious diseases. But hunters like Huff eat hog meat all the time.

"The leaving them lay part and letting them rot, I think that's kind of cruel because I was raised, everything you kill you eat," he said.

The hunters want more opportunity to help control the population and wildlife officials say they are considering lengthening the season. The state will offer an experimental trapping season for the first time this year.

Hunters selected in a lottery will be allowed to trap hogs from May to August on certain wildlife management areas.

For now, though, the helicopter will fly.

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