Commissioner wants state to help with hogs
Charlotte County Commissioner Ken Doherty intends to lobby state lawmakers for funding to help residents of Deep Creek combat wild hogs that are churning up yards and causing thousands of dollars in damage and much frustration.
Doherty said he has been in contact with representatives from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, commonly known as Swiftmud, which oversees the Deep Creek Preserve, a state-managed preservation area from which many of the feral swine cross into private neighborhoods searching for food.
Doherty, a resident of Deep Creek, said he would like the county’s state representatives to lobby the Legislature to fund Swiftmud’s hog-management program, which was discontinued a few years ago due to state budget cuts.
“(I would like to) see if there’s an opportunity for us to lobby our legislative delegation, if we can get support for the district to reinstate that program,” Doherty said. “It’s really a problem. Unless the management of the wild hogs gets under control, to initiate repairs to the greenbelts is futile.”
In the last two years, some 200 hogs have been captured in and around the private properties bordering the preserve, according to Jimmy Kazlauskas, a licensed trapper who’s been hunting hogs for close to 20 years. He was enlisted by the Section 20 Property Owners Association Deep Creek, a group that comprises 3,908 single-family home sites, to curb the nuisance pigs.
Kazlauskas, also known as “Jimmy the Trapper,” said the animals have been a pain to capture because not only are they outsmarting his traps, they are reproducing like rabbits. One sow can give birth to a litter of up to 13 piglets — twice a year.
The hogs have gotten so out of control, Kazlauskas said the only way to manage them is to have a hog hunt in Deep Creek.
Kazlauskas said he is coordinating with the state Department of Agriculture, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office and homeowners to schedule a night hunt.
“I want to make sure that when we do it, I have enough time to let everybody in the area know what I’m doing so they don’t look out their windows and see some gentlemen out there with shotguns and night-vision goggles and freak out,” Kazlauskas said recently at an association meeting.
For property owners, relief can’t come soon enough.
Association board member Mike Brown wants the state to kick in money to help clean up the thousands of dollars in damage the pigs have wreaked on private property.
“They are not our hogs. They belong to the state, as far as I’m concerned,” Brown said. “The $95 a year that we pay (in dues) doesn’t go very far. We have a lot of trouble maintaining the greenbelts, without (having to deal with) the hogs.”
But Swiftmud’s Stephanie Green said the agency has done everything it can to manage the beasts given the economic times, including contracting with the specialized band of hunters from the Department of Agriculture.
“I call it the hog SWAT team because it’s really what it is — night-vision goggles, you name it,” Green said. “They snare, trap; they shoot silencers. We did use those for two years on some of our high-intensity recreational properties. Unfortunately, with the economic downturn, that contract had to be discontinued because the cost was prohibitive.”
Swiftmud even funded research for “immuno-contraception,” Green said.
“If we could get rid of every single hog, we would,” she said. “That’s how serious we feel this is.”