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Feral hogs' foraging turns lawns into pigpens

Talk about boarish neighbors.

When the Prices moved into the Stagecoach community four years ago, they expected tranquillity. A backyard view of Mother Nature. That didn't last.

Recently, feral hogs turned their carpet of grass into mounds of mud.

"Saturday morning (Oct. 25) we woke up, and it was all this," said Robert Price, pointing to a back yard that looked as if an ox-plow just passed through.

Price, whose home backs up to the Cypress Creek flatwoods, estimates the damage to his yard at $2,000. His bigger fear is that the unwelcome guests will return for another meal.

Price, 37, and his wife, Kris, 32, suspect the hogs that burrowed through their back yard in search of worms or other grub came from the neighboring 7,400-acre tract owned by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, known as Swiftmud.

Swiftmud plans to take action to prevent more damage. The agency will erect hog wire, spokesman Michael Molligan said, and it unleashed trappers onto Cypress Creek land in search of the beasts.

"We try to control the population as much as possible. They cause a lot of erosion problems," he said.

Jeff Yorns understands residents' concerns about the hogs' ferocity.

"They'll slice your leg open," he said, referring to the hogs' tusks.

The community called the nuisance wildlife hunter and trapper to coordinate the placement of bait for the hogs before Swiftmud's trappers catch them.

The former Army man carried a .30-30 rifle with him Thursday while staking out their marks. In the other hand, he had a snake hook. Two blades dangled from his back belt-loop: a skinning knife and a machete to cut back the weeds.

At least 30 hogs could be traveling around Swiftmud's property bordering Stagecoach, while maybe about three adults with some babies tore up the Prices' yard, Yorns said.

Just Thursday, he saw fresh marks left nearby in an easement alongside Cypress Creek.

The wild hogs have no predators left in central Florida, so they breed out of control on large swaths of wilderness from Hillsborough to Pasco counties.