SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - When you think of wild or feral hogs, you may not realize how big of a problem they can be to farmers.
In the United States, they cause about $1.5 billion in damage to agriculture every year. Sarasota County is no exception. To help, County Commissioners just approved a pilot program that will allow managed feral hog hunting on Pinelands Reserve.
The owners of the Albritton Fruit Farms next to the Reserve said they’ve lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in business because of the hogs. The farm is 400 acres and they see anywhere from 15 to 25 feral pigs at any given time at the farm alone.
Farmers say the only way to stop them: hunting them or setting a trap.
“There’s damage in almost every single row that we have," said Matt Scarbrough, Sarasota Sportsmen’s Association committee member.
That’s saying a lot, considering there are 400 acres of row, after row, after row.
“I mean, this is really rough," said Scarbrough.
He’s a family friend of the Albrittons and said he’s been trying to stop the hogs from rooting the Albritton Fruit Farms for 60 years.
“[The hog] will stick his nose in the ground and he’ll pop the soil up and then he’ll hunt for grubs and mole crickets and other little small animals,” Scarbrough explained.
This damages the roots and often the irrigation for the citrus and blueberry plants.
“This is one of the micro-jets that’s been knocked down" he showed.
But not just that, the rooting damages the farming equipment too, causing a very rough terrain.
“It’s very, very frustrating to do something and have somebody, something, these hogs, come in here and mess it up,” said operator and owner of the Albritton Fruit Farms, John Karl Albritton.
It’s this family’s livelihood, costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars since the farm opened back in the 1880s.
But the hogs only keep coming back. Many sneaking in through holes from the county-owned Pinelands Reserve.
So Scarbrough had an idea. A pilot program to allow managed feral hog hunting on the reserve. This week, he got the go-ahead from Sarasota County Commissioners.
“We’re still in the infant stage of it, so all the parameters have not been set yet, but one thing we do know is there is only going to be archery and cross bows," said Scarbrough.
The goal for now is to open the Pinelands Preserve to hunters for eight days within a three month period starting next fall.
“There’s more damage being done by the hogs than agriculture," finished Scarbrough.
Farmers say this is a big problem across the country. For more information about the damage caused to agriculture from the United States Department of Agriculture, click here.