ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. - In South Florida, it's not just the snowbirds who are making themselves more visible these days. In fact, another group of residents is starting to hog all the attention.
"They like to get in here and root around and create this sort of damage."
University of Florida Agriculture Extension Agent Ken Gioeli discovered a large patch of yard torn to shreds when he came to work Monday in Fort Pierce.
"It looks like somebody came back here drunk with a rototiller," Gioeli jokes.
But the mess comes courtesy of feral hogs. There are an estimated half a million wild hogs in South Florida alone. The females on average have 5-7 babies a year.
"They can start giving birth within a year of being born. They can have several offspring and that's exponential growth that we see," said Gioeli.
The hogs have likely been here for hundreds of years, brought to Florida by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. They're not your cute potbellied pets. Adult males can weigh 200 plus pounds. After the hogs recently munched away hundreds of dollars of plants at the Ag office, hot wires and other barriers were put up.
Over at John Gruber's indoor organic garden shop in Port St. Lucie, there would also be plenty of tempting treats for the hogs. But in his side business, Gruber is a hog's worst enemy. He's an experienced trapper who says it's a challenge to outfox the hog.
"The older larger pigs they've seen it before. So you've got to ambush them, lead them down a path, disguise your trap so they walk into it," said Gruber, who also owns All American Pest Management.
The hogs aren't just a problem in the rural or agricultural areas. The City of Port St. Lucie established an ordinance last December to deal with the problem. But only a handful of landowners so far have applied for the necessary permits under the Nuisance Animal Harvest Act.
The city did issue a permit for a community in the Tradition area earlier this year.