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The Ohio House of Representatives passed a bill in June that would ban the hunting of wild hogs in the state, but would allow landowners or their designated agents to shoot the invasive swine without a hunting license or depredation permit as long as they notify the state’s Department of Natural Resources within 24 hours.

The proposed rule changes come as Kentucky, Ohio’s neighbor to the south, is finalizing a ban on hog hunting. Kentucky state wildlife officials don’t want to be hamstrung in their efforts to eradicate feral swine through trapping, and hunting pressure can make feral hogs more wary and harder to capture.

House Bill 503, which now goes to the Ohio Senate for consideration, also bans importing, transporting, or releasing feral swine in the state. The bill also prohibits feeding wild hogs once established and requires Ohio citizens to report any feral pig they see to state officials. Under the proposed law, bringing feral hogs into the state or releasing them into the wild would be a fifth-degree felony.

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According to the Ohio DNR, wild hog breeding populations have been confirmed in Adams, Athens, Gallia, Hocking, Jackson, Lawrence, Scioto, and Vinton counties in southeastern Ohio. This makes the Buckeye State one of 35 in the U.S. where feral swine have established breeding populations. Texas (with an estimated 3 million feral hogs) and Oklahoma (around 1.5 million) have the largest numbers.

“It’s not Porky Pig,” Rep. Bob Peterson, who sponsored the bill with Rep. Don Jones, said during the June 12 session where the proposal passed 89-0. He cited the extensive damage caused by wild hogs rooting in the state’s crop fields, CRP cover, and waterways and asserted that hog-borne diseases such as African Swine Fever could cost Ohio around $2.5 billion if it got into the state’s commercial pork operations. “It’s not the pigs you see at the fair,” Peterson said. “These are mean, wild, and destructive animals that need to be eradicated.”

Right now, wild hogs are classified as nuisance animals in Ohio and may be taken year-round by anyone with an Ohio hunting license. However, a valid deer permit is required to harvest feral swine during the gun and muzzleloader seasons for whitetail deer, and hunters are required to only use firearms legal for the season.

In a statement to Field and Stream, ODNR Division of Wildlife communications manager Brian Plasters noted the department has had “a cooperative agreement with USDA APHIS Wildlife Services for many years to control wild populations of feral swine in Ohio to reduce their impacts on native species and ecosystems, as well as limit spread of disease. Wildlife Services has been successful at reducing numbers and distribution of feral swine to a point where their elimination in Ohio is a real possibility.  The Division of Wildlife is aware of the House Bill 503, but has no comment on this pending legislation.”