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Trouble in hog heaven

Some piggish behavior on a 10,000-acre tract is worrying the Southwest Florida Water Management District (Swiftmud). Wild hogs, snouts burrowed into the ground, are churning the Swiftmud land in a hungry search for roots, grubs and acorns. In their wake, they are leaving trails of earth denuded of all vegetation.

The brown and black bristle-haired beasts are severely damaging wetlands and other areas.

Swiftmud outlined a plan last week to reduce the hog population by trapping and removing them from the property bordering the Withlacoochee River from State Road 44 to County Road 48.

The previous owners allowed hunting on the ranch, which kept down the number of hogs, said Fritz Musselmann, director of Swiftmud's land resources department.

The Swiftmud board turned down a staff recommendation in 1988 for a public hunt to control the animal populations. "We don't want to eradicate them," he said. "We just have an overpopulation of them."

Swiftmud does not know how many hogs live on the ranch. Musselmann said it will be several months before trapping begins.