April 13, 2008

Hog Wild: Growing Number of Feral Pigs Has Prompted the FWC to Allow Hunts

By Dusty Ricketts, Northwest Florida Daily News, Fort Walton Beach

Apr. 13--MILTON -- Feral hogs that are multiplying in the Blackwater Wildlife Management Area in Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties have become public enemy No. 1.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is offering five three-day hunts targeting the hogs.

Fred Robinette, district wildlife biologist for the FWC, said the wild hog population has exploded over the past three to four years.

"It's really impacting us," Robinette said. "There are some crops we've planted that we can't even get started (because the hogs dig them up and eat the seeds)."

Robinette said the hogs, which are mostly nocturnal, destroy wildlife food plots of chufas, corn and wheat.

Recent surveys show that the number of groundnesting birds such as quail has declined as a likely result of the feral pig increases.

The hog population in the Blackwater Wildlife Management Area's 5,243-acre Hutton Unit east of Milton and north of U.S. Highway 90 in Santa Rosa County has grown to several hundred in recent years, Robinette said.

The three-day hunts are scheduled for May 23-25, June 20-22, July 18-20, Aug. 22-24 and Sept. 19-21.

Each hunt has a limit of five quota permits that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Two people can hunt on each quota license and each license-holder can use up to three hunting dogs.

Robinette said using dogs is the only effective way to hunt the wild hogs.

"They are fierce competitors. There's an art to catching one of them," Robinette said.

Daily News Staff Writer Dusty Ricketts can be reached at 863-1111, Ext. 1448.


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Copyright (c) 2008, Northwest Florida Daily News, Fort Walton Beach

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