Alabama Governor Kay Ivey just signed a piece of legislation that will allow hunters to take wild pigs and coyotes at night, using night vision equipment and lights. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will be tasked with setting up a new nighttime hunting season starting this year.
Previously, hunters looking to take these pesky animals needed a depredation permit, available to landowners. Landowners then could list friends, family, lessees and delegates as permitted hunters on private and leased property. Under the new law, anyone with a depredation permit will be able to take pigs and coyotes anywhere they have permission to hunt.
“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,” said Matt Weathers, Chief of Enforcement with the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, or WFF. “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,” he said. “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.”
The new hunting permit runs $15 for residents and $51 for visitors. The new system will not only help deal with these animals, it will also clear up a lot of overhead work replacing the old scheme, which will free up more manpower for the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division.
Landowners will still be able to buy depredation permits under the old system if they choose to. “However, as long as the landowner gives permission, you can buy that new license to hunt at night,” Weathers said. “This streamlines the process and provides the ability to hunt on very short notice.”
“Those who buy the license will be able to use equipment that has heretofore been prohibited,” he added. “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.”
The WFF stresses that this permit is only for coyotes and feral pigs, and reminds people to stay safe, know their property lines and boundaries, and know where their fellow hunters are. This is new for Alabama and any time there’s a new activity people need to take all the precautions they can.
“In a lot of states, nighttime predator hunting is very popular. It’s big business in some areas,” said Weathers. “Hunting has been in decline for decades across the nation, but some of these specialty styles of hunting, nighttime predator hunting specifically, has just exploded. People are really getting into it.”
“As the prices have come down on equipment like suppressors, AR-15-style hunting rifles, night vision and thermal optics, these things are becoming more common and are becoming more accepted in hunting,” he added. “This is just an example of us trying to adjust regulation and law to account for the evolving manner in which Alabamians hunt. The feral swine population and the coyote population are certainly increasing in Alabama. These are animals whose populations can stand more hunters out there pursuing them.”
“We don’t think this is the silver bullet,” said WFF Director Chuck Sykes. “We’re not saying going hunting at night is going to eliminate the hog problem, because it’s not. What we are doing is giving people more opportunity to remove more pigs and coyotes if they choose to do so. It is another tool to reduce the number of predators.”
“Predator control is a big buzzword right now,” said Sykes. “We’re giving you the opportunity to do what you think is best to manage your property.”
This year’s nighttime hunting season is expected to open on July 1 and continue through November 1. In the following years, it will likely start on February 11 and run through to November 1.
Officials estimate that coyotes and feral pigs do an estimated $50 million in private property damages per year. Coyotes also predate on local wildlife populations, including white-tail deer and wild turkey.