By Matt Wiley
After three nights in the New Tampa woods, local hunters have helped put a dent in the wild hog population in the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve, located east of I-75 and north of U.S. 301.
The hunt, which was put on by the Southwest Florida Water Management District (aka Swiftmud), began at dusk on January 22-24, and produced 68 hogs, whose population was becoming a problem, as the omnivorous wild pigs uproot vegetation to find food.
A Swiftmud release says that the District only uses hog hunts when the damage that the hogs cause reaches an “unacceptable level,” which, in some cases, can leave swamps and pine flatwoods looking like plowed fields. The District says that the damage has become severe and frequent enough to warrant such a hunt.
“It’s been a very successful year,” says Will VanGelder, Swiftmud’s senior land management specialist. “This is a fiscally responsible approach to hog control. We cover (our) expenses through registration fees, which takes the burden off the taxpayer.”
The New Tampa-area hunt was one of 13 across the state. There were 280 total hunting permits available District-wide, although only 22 were available for the New Tampa hunt, which sold out the first day. There were no restrictions on size or the number of hogs that could be taken.
Local hunter Kelly Davis and her party pulled out four hogs the first night, each weighing 60-100 pounds. Davis used two dogs, both blue-tick coonhounds, which she breeds and sells with her business House of Blueticks (HouseofBlueticks.com).
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, hogs are not native to the state, have been known to reach five to six feet in length and weigh an average of 100-150 pounds with some specimens reaching more than 600 pounds!
For more information, please call the Land Management Section at Swiftmud’s Brooksville Headquarters at 1-800-423-1476 or (352) 796-7211, ext. 4467.