Feds to hunt wild pigs by helicopter in Havasu National Refuge

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The feds plan to use an aerial attack to thin the wild pig population in northwestern Arizona. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The feds plan to use an aerial attack to thin the wild pig population in northwestern Arizona. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Sen. McCain sent a letter advocating for local hunters to thin the herd. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Sen. McCain sent a letter advocating for local hunters to thin the herd. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials are concerned that hunters could be exposed to diseases the pigs are known to carry, including E. coli, salmonella and leptospirosis. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials are concerned that hunters could be exposed to diseases the pigs are known to carry, including E. coli, salmonella and leptospirosis. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Hunter Bryan Butch believes the feds could save taxpayer money by letting local hunters thin the wild pig population. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Hunter Bryan Butch believes the feds could save taxpayer money by letting local hunters thin the wild pig population. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
LAKE HAVASU CITY (3TV/CBS 5) -

Federal authorities plan to shut down parts of the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge next week so that a specially-trained marksman in a helicopter can thin the refuge’s troublesome wild pig population.

The two-week aerial eradication effort will follow “policy and procedures established to ensure safe, humane and environmentally sound practices,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

While plans to eradicate the non-native pigs have largely been cheered by people in the Lake Havasu City area, the decision by the federal agency to spend taxpayer dollars on an aerial-based attack has drawn criticism from local hunters and Arizona Sen. John McCain.

McCain sent a letter Tuesday to the agency’s acting director, urging him to reconsider the plan.

“I have questions regarding the cost of this project and encourage you to give further consideration to utilizing local hunters in your efforts,” McCain wrote.

The senator requested an estimate of the taxpayer dollars and man-hours dedicated to the project.

Scores of hunters in the area relish the thought of gaining permission to kill the pigs and would be willing to pay for access, according to residents.

“I'm sure they could arrange to capitalize off it and make money off it instead of costing the taxpayer money because there's plenty of hunters that want to go up and hunt these pigs,” said longtime resident and hunter Bryan Butch.

However, federal wildlife managers have resisted those offers because of concerns about hunter safety and the effectiveness of sport hunting. In both Tennessee and California, wildlife managers turned to sport hunting only to see wild hog populations increase when opportunists started illegally moving the animals to new areas, according to one study.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials are also concerned that hunters could be exposed to diseases the pigs are known to carry, including E. coli, salmonella and leptospirosis.

“Protection of hunters exposed to these pathogens when handling game is a safety concern,” the department wrote in a draft environmental assessment.

Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson has advocated for the use of hunters as part of the eradication plan but said he did not want to delay the aerial hunting efforts.

“Once you stop a project, then it never gets going again,” he said. “So I think it’s something they need to address very quickly.”

Johnson said the pigs have started causing problems in Lake Havasu City and “tearing up” one nearby golf course in particular. Since 2011, there have been at least two cases of hogs charging people on or near the refuge.

For safety reasons, the animal carcasses will be burned and buried, Johnson said.

The partial closures for the aerial eradication will span two weeks, from Feb. 20 until March 6. Topock Marsh will be closed throughout the entire operation, including Catfish Paradise, North and South Dikes, Pintail Slough, Five-mile Landing and Beal Overlook Platform.

The Colorado River will remain open.

“While the temporary closures to ensure public safety will be unavoidable over these two weeks, the end result of this project will prevent further habitat degradation, property damage,  and improve public and staff safety from this highly invasive species”, said Glenn Klingler of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in a statement.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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