Central Florida farmers are coping with damage from wild hogs this fall. These aggressive animals damage not only food crops, but they can also threaten the health of livestock by spreading devastating diseases.
Experts believe wild hogs were first introduced to Lee County by Hernando de Soto in 1539. Over the years, more of these animals have been released by Florida residents. The Florida Game and Fish Commission also released wild hogs in certain areas to improve hunting, but this is no longer a common practice. Because they are prolific breeders, these animals are now found in every Florida county and throughout the southeast.
Wild hogs can be found in swamps, marshes and hardwood forests. However, they prefer to roam where food is abundant, making it difficult for farmers to successfully raise food crops. Corn, rice, grains, melons, peanuts and forage grasses are all favorite foods for hogs. Tree seedlings and grass are also at risk of damage from rooting.
Local hunters may find themselves dealing with higher hog populations, as they are drawn to food plots and corn feeders often used to lure deer and turkey into the area. Wild hogs are opportunistic feeders and will usually eat whatever is within easy reach. They can threaten the balance of our ecosystem by feeding on turtles, small birds and young mammals. Pine forests are also at risk in areas where hog populations are high and young seedlings are rooted up regularly.
Hogs are quite active during the fall, when temperatures are cooler. This is also a time for breeding, when boars travel over many acres in search of mates. Hogs typically are sexually mature at one year of age, with sows producing two litters of up to 13 piglets each year. Since hogs reproduce at a high rate, farmers can have difficulty controlling the damage their crops sustain.
Food crop farmers are not the only ones having a hard time with wild hogs. Those who raise livestock must also deal with these pests. Wild hogs carry diseases such as brucellosis, anthrax, tubercullosis and salmonella.
In addition to disease, these animals are also known to spread lice, flukes and various worms. Farmers must spend a great deal of money each year to keep their animals protected from deadly diseases. High hog populations also pose a threat to humans because these animals can be aggressive when cornered. Their sharp tusks, agility and fast speeds are capable of inflicting severe injuries.
Farmers have a few options when it comes to controlling wild hogs on their land. According to the Florida Game and Fish Commission, there is no closed season on wild hogs and no bag limit. Many farmers hire professionals to remove hogs from their land, as well. These animals are relocated or sold for food. Landowners may also obtain nuisance permits to thin hog populations. However, hunting is one of easiest and least expensive ways to keep hogs under control.
While wild hogs are a part of Florida living, they must be controlled to keep our food crops and livestock animals safe. For more information about hog control laws and permits, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.