Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Florida's feral hogs

Wild hogs, often called feral hogs are common in Floridian nature. These hogs started as farm animals but once they escape they quickly turn feral and it doesn't take long for their looks to change. First brought to Florida in the 1500's when Hernando de Soto brought swine to provision a settlement he established at Charlotte Harbor in Lee County, wild hogs are now found in every county in the state. While hunters love the opportunity to hunt a large hoofed animal, homeowners and especially golf course owners are not as happy to find them in the area. Unlike coyotes that may live in your area and seldom be seen, wild hogs make their presence known by rooting up everything in site.  Wild hogs are omnivorous, opportunistic feeders. However, they consume far more plant than animal material, and may occasionally consume carrion. The list of foods eaten by hogs is diverse and includes grass, forb, and woody plant stems, roots, tubers, leaves, seeds, and fruits, fungi, and a variety of animals including worms, insects, crustaceans, mollusks, fish, small birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.

The the most part wild hogs are harmless, but males can be quite feisty and so are females with babies. I ran into a female hog on one of my walks and she had about 6-7 babies the size of a large football. I steered clear, although the babies started to come near me. I also ran into a male boar who came rushing out of the woods in a full sprint. I was startled to see the boar and more startled at the thought of what it was that the boar was running from! Average adult males may weigh 200+ pounds, stand 3 feet at the shoulder, have tails reaching 12 inches, and are almost 5 feet from the tip of the tail to the tip of the snout. However, males greater than twice this size have been recorded. Hogs have 4 continually growing, self-sharpening tusks (2 in the upper and 2 in the lower jaw; the rubbing of upper and lower tusks keeps them sharp). Tusks in females are relatively small,  while in males they become quite pronounced and have trophy value.

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