Given third reading in the House, the bill, introduced by Rep. Phillip Lowe (R-Florence) was delivered to the Senate ahead of the May 1 deadline for crossover legislation and could be passed into law this session if the Senate Fish, Game and Forestry Committee acts before its scheduled adjournment in June.
Lowe's bill sets a special season in addition to current opportunities to take the three species at night with special equipment. From the last day of February through July 1, citizens could use an expanded array of weapons and equipment in addition to current law that allows the animals to be killed at night, year-round with restrictions on weapons and equipment.
Specifically, the bill would allow the use of any legal firearm or archery equipment and the use of bait, electronic calls, artificial light, infrared, thermal or laser-sighting devices, night-vision devices or any device aiding the identification or targeting of species. It would require centerfire rifles to be fired from an elevated position at least 10 feet from the ground when hunting at night.
"We're declaring war on hogs and coyotes," Lowe said during a House subcommittee meeting.
Lowe said the extreme measures are needed to slow the spread of wild hogs, coyotes and armadillos. Hogs and coyotes threaten crops, livestock and wildlife, and armadillos dig up lawns and gardens in an incessant quest for food.
Domestic hogs have run wild in South Carolina since the first settlers brought them from Europe, but populations have exploded in recent years, and feral hogs have begun moving into the Upstate from their normal river drainages and swamps in the Lowcountry.
Coyotes, introduced both by normal migration and animals that were brought in to be run by hounds in fox pens and then escaped, have been expanding for the past several decades. Armadillos have been steadily migrating up from Florida but so far are limited primarily to the coastal counties.
The S.C. Department of Natural Resources reported that responses to the agency's annual deer hunter survey indicate hunters are killing about 35,000 hogs and 30,000 coyotes a year.