Armed with head lamps, GPS trackers and a pack of bloodhounds, a group of hunters is heading out in an area west of Fort Pierce. The three men are diving into the depths of the night in search of a beast. It’s a four-legged creature that's terrorizing the community
They’re hunting for wild boar.
"Big, black, ball of muscle,” said hog trapper Dustin Holland, after capturing one. “They're very strong and solid."
They're also leaving their marks all over Florida.
"My friends think it's pretty crazy. They don't believe me,” said Joanne Hennessy, Port St. Lucie resident as she pointed out the gouges they’ve left in her lawn.
She said she can hear them from her house, and fears for herself and her dog, Nutmeg.
"It's scary because you don't know how many there are or how big they are,” she said.
That's why trapper Jeffrey Mayer and his crew are hired.
"I mean they cause billions of dollars worth of damage in this country every year,” he said.
It’s a great cost in damage, and a huge effort tracking them down.
Trappers say the best way to find the feral hogs is by using dogs wearing collars that have GPS tracking devices on them. Once the dogs stop moving on the map, it's a good indication they found a wild boar.
With the GPS dog collars, it took the hunters three hours one night recently to catch a wild female boar, weighing about 150 pounds.
Though small in size, hog hunters say sows like her are one of the biggest contributors to the feral pig problem, producing up to 30 piglets a year at just six months of age.
"Their population size, just explodes,” said Ken Gioeli, a naturalist with the University of Florida.
“They will root up a whole area and they'll just change the dynamics of a whole site. You're going to have a wound in the environment basically," he said.
Gioeli points out there's about a half a million wild boars in southeast Florida, second only to Texas.
He warns they’re not only harmful to the eco-system, they're aggressive towards humans and carry disease.
“They're an invasive species for a reason. They're here because they’re out to compete with our natives and they're just difficult to control,” he said.
As more people move west and the boars continue to reproduce, experts predict there will be more instances of man and boar crossing paths
"I mean it's a safety issue, it's a health issue. It seems that something needs to be done,” said Joanne Hennessy.
"If nothing is done, these feral hogs are just going to continue to increase in population size and they're just going to become more and more noticeable and the damage they do will be more noticeable, and costly," warned Gioeli.
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