Thursday, January 18, 2007

Wild hogs rooting up neighborhoods

Wild hogs rooting up neighborhoods
Herald Staff Writer

The numbers are telling as property owners wake up to find their lawns and landscape latticed with trenches up to 18 inches deep. In Ridgewood mobile home park, 19 wild pigs have been trapped and removed over the past three months, a wildlife trapper said Tuesday.

Neighbors are seeing continual damage to property.

"When we moved into our house, I noticed hoof prints," said Chuck Horan, who has lived on Ellenton-Gillette Road, just south of Moccasin Wallow Road, for a year. "Then, one day the acre out front looked like a bulldozer went through it."

Horan said the pigs not only tore up his front yard, they did a number on the backyard, too, destroying newly planted palm trees and three sprinkler heads.

He said the large developments being built throughout the area are partly to blame for proliferation of damage from wild pigs.

"Since they started that development up on Moccasin Wallow, they've been chasing them out," Horan said. "I'm even seeing grey fox and something that looked like a coyote."

Horan hired Jeff Norris, of Nuisance Wildlife Relocation, to trap the destructive pigs and move them farther out into the country.

"Over the last year I've probably done 200 percent more hog trapping jobs in just residential areas north of the Manatee River and in east county," said Norris, who also removes raccoons, opossums, bats and other wild animals.

"I removed 19 hogs (over a two to three-month period) from the Ridgewood mobile home park," he said.

Norris said the wild pigs, which are not native to Florida, destroy yards when they are rooting for grubs and young tender roots.

They can tear up a 6-foot square area in 15-20 minutes, he said.

Chad Allison, a nuisance wildlife biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission office in Lakeland, said it is not too surprising that wild pigs would be creating havoc for residents of new developments.

"Like all wildlife, especially when developments border wooded areas, you can see an increase in complaints in certain counties," Allison said.

Although residential areas are not the typical habitat for wild pigs, if the development is next to a wooded area they will wander through in search of food, he said.

"They prefer more cover," Allison said.

Horan said the hogs that are creating the problem for him are coming out of the wetlands he owns behind his house.

Even though Norris has trapped two wild pigs on Horan's property, the situation has not improved that much, he said.

"I saw a sow who looked like she was getting ready to have a litter," Horan said. "Now I see a lot of little hoof prints, so there's now eight more little pigs out there."

"Hogs are prolific breeders," said Allison, the FFWC biologist. "They reach sexual maturity at one year of age and have multiple births."

Hogs are not native to North America, he said. The Europeans brought them here more than 500 years ago.

Although not classified as a nuisance animal by the state, wild pigs can destroy the natural environment and habitat of other wildlife.

They also are hosts for diseases and promote unhealthy conditions, Allison said.

There are no state regulations about killing wild pigs, other than safety issues.

"I had the option of shooting them," said property owner Horan, "but I didn't want to take a chance of hitting a cow or someone in the mobile home park."

He said the feral pigs also are creating havoc with the Gillette Community Cemetery near his home since a fence has been removed.

"They've dug down 18 inches and disturbed some of the grave sites," Horan said.