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County Commission: The hunt is on for feral hogs

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  • | 4:00 a.m. July 12, 2012
Critics of the feral hog hunt wait anxiously for the Sarasota County Commission vote on the Southwest Florida Water District proposal.
Critics of the feral hog hunt wait anxiously for the Sarasota County Commission vote on the Southwest Florida Water District proposal.
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When the podium opened for public input at the July 10, Sarasota County Commission meeting, board members knew the proposed feral hog hunt would dominate discussion.

Opponents of the hunt held up protest signs and displayed pictures of splayed hogs and a video of a squealing pig bleeding out. After discussion, commissioners approved the proposal submitted by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which is aimed at containing an invasive species destroying protected lands.

There will be 30 permits issued for a hunt lasting from Dec. 11 to Dec. 13 and again from March 19 to March 21 next year. The boundaries are roughly 770 acres, available for pursuit of feral hogs, with safety buffers in check for neighboring communities.

The two dominant arguments against the proposal were based on the efficacy and ethics of such a hunt, which allows hunters to use trained dogs and knives to kill the invasive hogs.

“I would argue that our wildlife adapted better to hogs in 500 years than anything we throw at them,” said Kevin Barton, co-founder and executive director of the Wildlife Center of Venice. “And that includes dogs.”
There were two speakers who cited Florida Statute 828, which makes cruelty to dogs a felony.

“If a dog owner did to their dog what a hog can — and will — do during a hog hunt, the hunter would be cited for cruelty to an animal,” said Sarasota County resident Valarie Clark.

Only one hunt supporter participated in the public discourse, noting that every hunter he knows is working.

“My dogs mean a lot to me, and I spent a lot of time training them, and I really care for them,” said Hank Duyn. “I’d like my son to grow up and have that same experience when he’s older.”

In the end, commissioners followed the advice of two advisory boards, which Commissioner Joe Barbetta said is crucial to the public office, and voted 4-1 in favor of the Water District proposal.

“I grew up in Manhattan; we didn’t hunt a lot, and, frankly, I’ve never shot at an animal,” said Commissioner Nora Patterson. “I don’t see that we have a choice if we are to adequately protect these lands.”

Commissioner Jon Thaxton, well-known for his hunting background, delivered the lone dissenting vote.
“Control of the feral hogs is just as critical as controlling the rats in our home, they’re just as bad a nuisance,” he said. “But, this particular method does not fit our county.”

He did note, however, that he disagreed with hog-hunt opponents who claimed hunting created emotionless psychopaths.

“I began my hunting career at an age, so young I don’t remember what it was,” he explained. “And I think I turned out OK.”

Barbetta, perhaps, summed up the supporting commissioners’ decision best.

“I know you showed videos of what happens to the hogs, but look at the damage not only to the land, but to the nesting birds that are killed — the eggs that are eaten,” he said. “We just need to do something about it.”



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