By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
With Alabama Governor Kay Ivey’s signature this week, new legislation will provide hunters in Alabama with another opportunity to harvest two specific animals. The legislation allows Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship to establish a season for hunting feral hogs and coyotes at night without the need for a depredation permit.
When the season is finalized, Alabama residents will be able to purchase a $15 license ($51 for non-residents) to hunt feral hogs and coyotes at night.
Matt Weathers, Chief of Enforcement with the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division, said the new permit will make it much easier on hunters and the WFF staff.
“To this point in our state, those who wish to hunt feral swine or coyotes during nighttime hours have to get a permit that is only issued to landowners,” Weathers said. “Those landowners can list friends, family or delegates on the permit to take those animals at night for crop damage, property damage or livestock damage. This is done through special permitting through the local WFF District Office.
“The new law provides for a license that allows anyone in the state to hunt feral swine and coyotes at night by buying a license to hunt on any private or leased property where they have permission to hunt. So, if you lease a hunting club, if the person or corporation you lease that property from allows you to hunt at night, you can purchase the license to hunt those animals at night on your hunting club. And you can do that without the landowner coming to us to get a permit.
“It represents a new hunting activity for the state, and it will enlist as many as 200,000 hunters in this fight against two insidious predators. So, a new hunting activity; that’s a good thing. You have more feral swine and coyotes being removed from the state; that’s a good thing, too. It’s a win-win.”
Weathers said the depredation permits will continue to be available to landowners who prefer not to buy the new license.
“However, as long as the landowner gives permission, you can buy that new license to hunt at night,” he said. “This streamlines the process and provides the ability to hunt on very short notice.”
The damage wreaked by feral hogs on agriculture and wildlife habitat is substantial throughout the South. Estimates are that feral swine cause $50 million in private property damage in Alabama annually. The damage to wildlife habitat is difficult to quantify, but feral hogs compete with the native wildlife, like white-tailed deer and wild turkeys, for food and also damage the native habitat.
Coyotes are known to be quite effective predators of whitetail fawns and can have significant impacts on populations of white-tailed deer.
Weathers said the new license is specific to these two species.
“This license does not allow you to take any other game animal at night,” he said. “It’s a good way to control predators on your hunting club or property. And this gives you the opportunity to utilize that property or hunting club during the months when it’s a little too hot to hunt during the daytime. It gives you a little more value in your hunting lease.
“All parties involved, except for the feral swine and coyotes, are going to benefit from it.”
Weathers said several regulations will be amended to allow for equipment used for hunting at night.
“Those who buy the license will be able to use equipment that has heretofore been prohibited,” he said. “During the established season, you will be able to use night vision or thermal optics. You can have lights attached to your firearms. Those technologies are emerging and make the taking of these animals a lot more efficient.”