Every year as I do presentations about new criminal law legislation, a smaller piece of legislation catches my eye. Invariably as I look into the legislation, I learn about the concerns that led to the legislation. An example this year is S.L. 2016-113 sec. 3 (S 770), which allows the culling of feral swine—that is, wild boar—from aircraft. At first glance, the description conjures up images of hunting parties taking to the sky to go after wild boar. That’s not what the legislation contemplates. Taking wild animals from or with the use of aircraft remains a misdemeanor under North Carolina law. See G.S. 113-191.1(b)(1); G.S. 113-135(a). The legislation adds a new statute, G.S. 113-299, creating a narrow exception from this prohibition for wildlife officers and similar federal employees. What’s behind the legislation? What does it allow? What doesn’t it allow?
Background. According to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (Wildlife Commission), wild boar are a problem in North Carolina. The species is not native to North Carolina or North America at all. “The wild boar did not come to North Carolina until April 1912, when hunters brought 13 European boars to a game preserve at Hooper’s Bald in Graham County.” North Carolina Wildlife Profiles: Wild Boar (N.C. Wildlife Resources Comm’n). “By 1920, approximately 100 boars had escaped into the Great Smoky Mountains.” Id. They then did what comes naturally—they bred and they spread.
Given their origins, the largest concentration of wild boar is in the mountains in western North Carolina, as shown by this 2013 map from the Wildlife Commission:
The Wildlife Commission reports that wild boar compete with native wildlife and pose threats to the environment and agricultural operations. Among other things, wild boar root through the ground in search for food and destroy both wildlife habitat and agricultural crops. Previous legislative changes were intended to make it easier to remove wild boar and to prevent their relocation and establishment in other areas. In 2011, the General Assembly changed the status of wild boar from a game to a nongame animal, subject to fewer hunting restrictions and no closed hunting season. S.L. 2011-369 (H 432). For a discussion of current hunting restrictions, see Hunting Feral Swine (N.C. Wildlife Resources Comm’n).
What the new legislation does and doesn’t do. This year’s legislation provides an additional method for managing wild boar in North Carolina. (Wildlife Commission literature suggests that it is all but impossible to completely eradicate wild boar in more productive habitats.) New G.S. 113-299 allows Wildlife Commission employees and federal employees whose responsibilities include wildlife management, in the performance of their official duties, to cull wild boar from aircraft. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has conducted these efforts to assist states in managing their wild boar population. The statute requires permission of the landowner and prohibits the activity in coastal counties during waterfowl season.
The new legislation does not lift the general prohibition on taking wild boar or other animals from aircraft. Such animals continue to be classified as “wild animals” under G.S. 113-129, subject to the prohibition on taking wild animals from aircraft in G.S. 113-291.1. Neither private individuals nor commercial companies may take wild boar from the air in North Carolina.
Other states, such as Texas, are not as restrictive. Commercial companies offer wild boar hunting trips, with helicopters and semi-automatic weapons. A quick internet search will turn up several companies, complete with video footage. North Carolina has chosen a different flight path.
For those interested in a complete summary of criminal law legislation enacted by the North Carolina General Assembly this year, consult 2016 Legislation Affecting Criminal Law and Procedure by our colleague Bob Farb.