Hunters would get free rein to eradicate wild hogs, coyotes and armadillos under a bill introduced in the S.C. House of Representatives.
Rep. Phillip Lowe this month introduced H4943, which would allow night hunting of the three non-native species from March through June. It also would allow the use of bait, lights and laser sights to help rid the state of the animals.
"We're declaring war on hogs and coyotes," Lowe, R-Florence, said during a House subcommittee meeting Wednesday.
Among the bill's cosponsors are Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, and Rep. Andy Patrick, R-Hilton Head Island, according to legislative records.
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Harsh measures are needed to reduce the threat hogs and coyotes pose for crops, livestock and wildlife, according to Lowe and others.
Wild hogs have been in the swamps of the coastal plain and a few mountain areas for centuries but have quickly spread to surrounding areas in recent years.
As the population explodes, so does the damage done, said Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton.
"These hogs can tear up an acre of land in a day," Herbkersman said.
The financial damage caused by hogs and coyotes in the state adds up to tens of millions of dollars each year, according to DNR.
Sgt. Michael Paul Thomas, a DNR law enforcement officer, said hogs have been spotted in outlying parts of Beaufort County but are more prevalent in Jasper and Colleton counties.
"There's no doubt that the hog population has grown significantly," Thomas said. "We're never going to eradicate them. Hogs and coyotes are here to stay, but we are working with the legislature to find a safe and effective solution to keep the numbers in check."
Currently, anyone with a hunting license can shoot wild hogs, coyotes and armadillos year-round, but no license is required for those hunting within 100 yards of their residence, according to state law. There are limits on the types of weapons and ammunition, along with restrictions on night hunting and use of lights.
Herbkersman said he supports Lowe's proposal but wants to make sure hunters don't endanger humans.
"We need to make sure this is done responsibly," Herbkersman said. "Responsibly is the key word in all of this, but I'm for it. When you live in a rural area, it's one of the necessities to be able to protect domestic animals and your property."
The (Columbia) State contributed to this report.