Series of hunts to manage feral hog population

Permits to participate in annual hog hunts on Southwest Florida Water Management District lands go on sale Oct. 6.

Land managers with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, commonly referred to as Swiftmud, announced a series of hog hunts throughout the rest of the year and into 2021.

Non-native feral hogs can cause damage to area lands, leaving foraging sites “looking like a plowed field,” according to a district press release. They also prey on native wildlife, compete with native species for food and transmit diseases to other wildlife, livestock and humans. Feral hogs may also facilitate the spread of exotic plant species by transporting seeds and/or providing germination sites through rooting.

According to the Swiftmud website, wild hogs may be infected with pseudorabies, leptospirosis or swine brucellosis. Participating hunters are advised to check with their veterinarian about the transmission of pseudorabies to their hunting dogs. Leptospirosis and swine brucellosis are transmissible to humans, though the incidence is not likely.

The series is split into three phases, with online registration for Phase 1 beginning at 9 a.m., Oct. 6, followed by registration for Phase 2 on Dec. 8.

The first two phases include six hunt dates and each permit costs $75. Phase 1 hunts occur from November through December. Phase 2 hunts occur next year from January to February. Each permit is good for the one hunter, two assistants and three dogs.

The 12 most successful hunters from Phases 1 and 2 will be rewarded with invitations to participate in Phase 3 free of charge. The window for Phase 3 hunts is March through October next year, though none are currently scheduled. Dates for these management hunts will be determined as needed. All top producers from Phases 1 and 2 will be offered participation on a minimum of four management hunts during Phase 3, the district states.

There are six Swiftmud-managed areas involved in the hog hunts. The three extending nearest to Pasco County borders are the Alston Tract, situated primarily in west Polk County and northeast Hillsborough County; the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve, located in north Hillsborough to the south of Pasco; and the Hampton Tract, located in west Polk to the east of Pasco.

The other three are the Chito Branch Reserve (in east Hillsborough), Flying Eagle Nature Center (east Citrus County) and the Halpata Tastanaki Preserve (south Marion County).

More detailed information on when and where specific Phase 1 and 2 hunts are expected to take place can be found online at swfwmd.state.fl.us/recreation/feral-hog-hunts. The district-managed properties will be closed to the public during the hog hunts.

This is the 12th consecutive year the district has held hog hunts. Last year’s efforts removed 625 hogs on 13 different tracts of land throughout the district.

Hunters can purchase permits online at WaterMatters.org/HogHunts and they will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis until they are sold out.