If you have been reading our articles, you know that our back yard faces wetlands. We would have it no other way, even though sometimes it poses some problems. Not long after we moved to Florida, the feral pigs introduced themselves.
Time for a bit of history lesson; don’t quit reading yet, this is a small lesson.
Ferdinand De Soto, the Spanish explorer, brought hogs with him when he landed in Florida, in 1539. The plan was to let the pigs breed as a source of food for his men. Some of the pigs either escaped or were allowed to run wild and they still are running wild in Florida to this day.
The descendants of those pigs De Soto released cause big problems now. Pigs are prolific breeders; each brood can have up to a dozen piglets. Adults weigh between 100 – 200 pounds and have no natural predators. Bobcats and coyotes will go after the young, but that doesn’t seem to be enough to keep the pig population down. It is estimated that there are over 500,000 wild pigs in the Sunshine State.
You might think since Florida has a fairly large area of uninhabited land, the pigs would be no bother. Oh if that were only the case. As most folks know, pigs will eat just about anything. In the wild, they root or dig up the soil hunting for tasty roots and tubers. They cause quite a bit of damage where ever they decide to forage for food.
What damage could a pig possible do? You would not believe it!
One morning, as we were sitting in our lani having coffee, we saw a very large pig walk through our yard. To be honest, we were thrilled; another wild animal came by to visit. When we saw a female following about 3 minutes later again, we thought that was pretty cool. Then came TEN little piggys; how cute.
One of our neighbors starting putting scraps of food at the edge of the wetlands for the swine family. At night we could hear the pigs grunting as they ate the table scraps. I mentioned to the lady next door that feeding the pigs may not be the best idea, they were going to get used to the feeding. I was right.
When the neighbors went away for on vacation, the pigs came into the yard looking for food. When they didn’t find it, they started rooting in the grass. Man, can they root. When we got up the next morning our yards looked like a Rototiller went through them.
Most of you won’t believe me when I tell you how bad the yards were dug up. The ruts were about a foot deep. They were all over both of our yards. It took me over 2 hours to try and replace the sod and mend the damage.
Next morning, guess what? The pigs did it again. They continued to tear up the yard every night for about a week. I thought I was in a bad copy of the movie “Groundhog Day”; I was going through the same routine every day.
The pigs must have found more productive feeding grounds for awhile; we didn’t see them for a few days. Then they came back to dig up the yard again.
I contacted a trapper who promised he could catch the adults and take them away. He takes them to his farm and feeds them grain for several weeks and then slaughters them, so he does not charge for his services. He brought a trap made of wood and wire that was big enough to hold both of us. At the front and inside the trap he place bait of cracked corn. The trap had a spring holding the front gate open; the idea was once the pig went in, the trap the door would close behind.
The pigs would eat the bait right up to the door and then leave. The trap sat in the yard for a couple of weeks. The big male pig seemed to move on, we didn’t see him anymore. Momma and the babies kept coming around, digging up the yard.
Now, I have never been a hunter. In fact, I never killed an animal. I even throw all the fish I catch back. But this pig was a real pain in the backside. So, the next morning when she came into the yard, I was ready with my trusty 357 magnum.
I should tell you, in Florida, feral pigs are considered an exotic, invasive, species. As such, it is legal to shoot them. No permit or license required.
To make a long story a bit shorter, suffice it to say one shot and she was a goner. I felt real good until I realized, I now had a pig that weighed over a hundred pounds to dispose of. I called the trapper and he said he would take it if I gutted it and put it on ice for a few hours.
Right, I certainly was not about to do that.
So, I get a rope and a shovel and start dragging her back into the wetlands. I figured I would dig a hole and give her a good burial.
The trees and bushes in Florida have shallow roots that run horizontal a few inches below the surface of the ground. Digging a hole, big enough for this pig, was out of the question. As I took my hat off to wipe the sweat off of my brow, I noticed the vultures circling already. I decided to let the pig in the open and see if the vultures would take care of it for me. They certainly did. In no time there were scores of the big black birds having a feast. There was next to nothing left of the pig by the end of the day.
The neighbor and I had a little talk about feeding any more pigs. She agreed that it was not the best thing she ever did.
Luckily, we have not had any more porky visitors (except one relative) since then. The pig skull now hangs in my son’s apartment in New York City. That’s another story.
I love pork, but I prefer to buy, it not get it on the hoof.