By JANET McCONNAUGHEY | Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
Hogs root up huge swaths of ground, destroying the plants on it.
"In the marshy areas, that vegetation is what's holding the landmass together. We're just trying to check that damage," said Bo Boehringer, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
It's legal to kill hogs in state wildlife management areas during any hunting season, essentially, September through February. Private landowners can kill them any time, including at night. But hunting hasn't come close to keeping up with the clever and prolific animals, each sow can produce two litters of six piglets a year.
Boehringer said he's been told one helicopter squad can kill as many as 300 hogs in a day.
They'll be flying this week over three sections of the Sherburn Wildlife Management Area and the marshes south of U.S. Highway 90 in the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area. Each section will be covered by a single helicopter for one day.
Boehringer can't say just when the choppers will fly, because that's partly controlled by weather.
"We're doing it this time of year because the trees have not greened up ... so visibility's better to see the hogs on the ground," Boehringer said.
The 35,728-acre Pearl River area is in St. Tammany Parish. Sherburne, a total of 44,000 acres owned by the state, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Army Corps of Engineers but managed by the state, is in Iberville, St. Martin and Pointe Coupee parishes. Boehringer said its main body and the areas called the North and South farms will be covered separately.
Wildlife agents will be posted at each area's sign-in station to let birdwatchers, hikers, anglers and nutria hunters know that if they hear a helicopter and gunfire, it's probably the hog-killers.
"The tech is very close range, with shotguns, no high-powered rifles," Boehringer said.
The hogs, which can carry parasites, will be left where they're killed.
"We cannot deliver that meat to any food bank. There's no way we could certify the quality," Boehringer said.