PALM COAST, Fla. (AP) — Wild hogs have dug up most of the sod in Rachel Huzior’s backyard, knocked down several lawn lights and ripped holes in her screened-in pool house.
They come in the night, voracious eating machines that can cause massive damage to expensive landscaping.
They are wild hogs, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates they cause about $1.5 billion in damages and control costs each year.
Residents of a Flagler County neighborhood are the latest to fall prey to their destructive nature.
Feral pigs have ravaged several yards in the Hidden Lakes community in Flagler County over the past several weeks, ripping up manicured lawns in a relentless search for food. It’s a problem that has some residents in the resort-style development that abuts Graham Swamp, a 3,000-acre preserve that serves as a natural habitat for the animals, asking for help.
“Everybody’s flipping out,” said Rachel Huzior. “Everybody’s going crazy. They’re saying someone needs to be accountable for this.”
Hogs, most likely rooting for grubs, have dug up most of the sod in Huzior’s backyard, knocked down several lawn lights and ripped holes in her screened-in pool enclosure. She estimates it will cost at least $1,500 to repair the damages.
Huzior and her neighbors have plenty of company. Over the last year, reports of wild hog damage have bounced around in Flagler and Volusia counties. Packs of feral pigs struck the Woodlands area of Palm Coast in late 2017 and their devastation is hardly limited to Flagler. Edgewater officials in June hired a trapper to capture and remove hogs last month after a pack of them were sighted in that city.
“It’s a sense of helplessness,” an exasperated Alberto Jones said in late November when hogs were plowing through his Palm Coast yard on a regular basis.
It’s a problem nearly as old as Florida, dating back to the 16th Century when Spanish explorers brought domestic pigs to the New World as food provisions. Today wild hogs occupy all 67 Florida counties, and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates their population has grown to more than 500,000 in the state. In the U.S., only Texas has more.
Even state agencies appear short on answers when it comes to reducing such a huge hog population. The conservation commission’s website concedes it’s “usually futile” trying to keep wild pigs off private property, but suggested installing fencing as a way to mitigate the invasion.
“They’re just too driven, like a lot of wildlife,” FWC spokesman Greg Workman said. “Whenever they have their minds set on getting somewhere that has a good food source, they’ll find a way to get to it. They’re resourceful and determined to get that meal.”
Residents in Hidden Lakes say hogs began targeting their yards weeks ago. In fact, the animals dug craters into the lawn in front of the communal pool and park area late last month.
Paytas Homes, the exclusive homebuilder in Hidden Lakes, hired trappers to set up cages throughout the neighborhood and they had captured at least 17 hogs in late July, residents said. Trapped hogs legally cannot be released onto public property.
Arnie Roma said six feral pigs were nabbed in his backyard, which has been attacked almost nightly. He spent a day resodding deep crevices in his front yard.
It’s a fix Roma says is required by the homeowners association that governs his stretch of the neighborhood, one that’s going to cost him about $1,500. He plans to install a temporary fence to keep the hogs at bay, but expressed frustration at being forced to restore the aesthetics of his property before property managers have addressed the problem.
“If they want us to fix the front, I’ve got no problem with that. But what happens if they (pigs) come again and dig up?” he wondered aloud. “I’m just supposed to keep throwing $1,500 away? I’m not an idiot.
“They want their cake and they want to eat it too, and they want it both ways besides that,” he added. “You can’t have it both ways.”
Eliminate food source
Representatives from Paytas Homes could not be reached for comment July 25. Hidden Lakes property managers attribute the most recent outbreak to two hurricanes striking within 11 months and nor’easters throughout the year that have raised the water table in the Graham Swamp preserve.
Earlier this year, there were claims of extensive damage in the Grand Haven gated community, and marauding hogs also have been blamed for damage in Edgewater and Port Orange in Volusia County. Residents in the Woodlands neighborhood on the northern end of Graham Swamp complained that construction along Colbert Lane was displacing hogs and forcing them into their neighborhood.
Buddy Smith, a chief development officer for Tuscan Gardens, which is building a senior-living facility near the Woodlands, worked with those residents last year to help them get a handle on the ongoing issue. He said the hogs eventually moved on to fresher ground on their own terms.
The most effective solution, he suggests, is to identify the food source that is attracting the animals and remove it.
“They’re coming in there for one thing and that’s to eat,” he said. “If they’re in my yard, it’s because I’ve got something in my soil that they like, and it’s probably grubs … So you’ve got to eliminate whatever it is that they’re eating.”
Information from: Daytona Beach (Fla.) News-Journal, http://www.news-journalonline.com
–By MATT BRUCE , The Daytona Beach News-Journal
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