With an oink-oink here and an oink-oink there . . . Animal control officers corralled more than 600 pigs at a Florida animal sanctuary. The roundup occurred after a call for help.
Christal and Francis Ellard love pigs. They run In Loving Swineness Sanctuary. They rescue wild pigs in northwest Florida’s panhandle.
Posts on the group’s Facebook page indicate the group asked folks in their community to support their work. That involved renting out pigs to rid areas of kudzu and cogongrass. The invasive weeds create problems in parts of Florida. According to some, foraging pigs are the best way to eliminate both. They eat the kudzu and uproot the cogongrass.
According to Mary Tharp, the Ellards “started with 20 pigs four years ago.” Tharp hosted the herd at one time on her property. But pigs being pigs, the animals made a big mess. Some escaped and roamed the streets of Pensacola. Tharp tried evicting the pigs and their owners to no avail. Eventually, In Loving Swineness moved one farm over.
That’s when the pig population really swelled.
Pigs are remarkable procreators. Females can produce seven to 14 piglets twice each year. Last November, the Ellards owned roughly 150 pigs, mostly miniature ones. It didn’t take long for that number to reach 608. Everywhere an oink, oink.
In June, animal control got a call. One pig owner said, “I can’t do this anymore,” says county animal control director John Robinson.
He stepped in but wasn’t ready for what he found. “It’s terrifying,” Robinson says of the number of pigs.
Capture took nearly four days. Officers had to wrangle a wild hog horde spread over eight acres. The pigs showed “zero interest” in cooperating with their seizure. Officers ended up leaving about 15 larger swine behind—to avoid human injury.
“It’s so difficult when you’re dealing with that many animals,” Robinson says. “It shouldn’t be the county’s responsibility to clean up somebody’s mess like that.”
Officers trucked the pigs to farms and other new homes outside the county.
Meanwhile, the landowner faces multiple citations and must pay a $250 fine. Officials are weighing other sanctions against the landowner and the sanctuary operators.
And what about the porkers left behind? Tharp predicts: “We’ll have feral swine in the Cantonment area for years to come.” E-i-e-i-o.
Why? Actions sometimes have long-lasting consequences—for others as well as ourselves. Letting nature “run wild” sounds reasonable, but can allow for those troubling consequences.