Hogs invade Hidden Lakes, causing thousands of dollars in property damage
When Arnie Roma and his family pulled into the driveway of his home in Palm Coast’s Hidden Lakes subdivision one night last month, Roma noticed something strange near his mailbox: The lights shining outside illuminated a wild hog, something he’d never seen before. Days later, Roma walked into his backyard to find another hog. Roma expected the hog to run away, but it just sat there, staring back at him. He thought of the grandkids who were in his home at the time and wondered if they would be safe.
Roma, like many residents who live in Hidden Lakes, has been dealing with wild hogs ever since. The hogs are coming from the swamp east of the subdivision on Old Kings Road; some speculate that they’ve been seeking dry ground in neighborhoods because heavy rains have flooded the swamp.
Pee and vegetable oil?
Cost is the primary concern for Hidden Lakes resident MaryAnn Meyers, who returned from a trip a month ago and discovered that wild hogs had dug up chunks of her backyard lawn.
“When you disturb or destroy a critter’s habitat, they move somewhere else. But Hidden Lakes — the swamp area was graded about 12 years ago.”
Jim Landon, city manager
Searching for help and answers, Meyers contacted her homeowners association, Flagler County Animal Control and the city of Palm Coast.
“Most of us are on Social Security and on a budget,” Meyers said. “I didn’t expect to have to re-sod my new home.”
But the city of Palm Coast does not pay for trappers. In fact, City Manager Jim Landon said, the city doesn’t have any role at all in wildlife removal.
“We don’t have the equipment or the expertise,” he said.
The city did arrange for a trapper to get access to the woods near the subdivision.
Meyers has had a hard year: Her dog just died, her brother had a heart attack, and her husband has been recovering from back surgery. Now, a hog invasion.
When she finally reached animal control, she was given something to try: Have her husband collect his urine when he peed first thing in the morning, then mix the urine with vegetable oil and spread it around the perimeter of the home. Next, she was instructed, leave an AM/FM radio playing outside to project the sound of human voices into the swamp. The idea was that the hogs would connect the human voices to the smell of human urine, realize the yard was human territory, and back away. But the plan seemed ludicrous to Meyers, and she felt even more helpless.
Wild hogs are not new to the area. There was a similar invasion in 2017 in the Woodlands, north of Hidden Lakes. And Hidden Lakes homeowner Rachel Huzior said she’s heard the hogs ever since she moved to the area in December 2016.
But they haven’t caused this much damage until recently.
The hogs have torn up grass on three sides of Huzior’s screened lanai, ruining hundreds of square feet of sod. One panel of her screen is torn near the base, and she worries that a hog could eventually breach the lanai.
“I can’t even come back here,” Huzior said.
The hogs also damaged trees and decorative lights and stones in the backyard. Rachel’s husband, Darryl, estimates that repairs will cost around $3,000.
Trappers have installed a trap in the Huziors’ backyard, but it’s faulty; the hogs have been eating the bait and escaping.
Arnie and Rosemary Roma also have a trap in their yard, and they’ve added something extra: a temporary electric fence surrounding the backyard.
But the hogs responded by migrating to their front yard, where there is little the Romas can do: Per the rules of the HOA, residents can only build fences in their backyards.
With the cost of repairing the damage reaching thousands of dollars, Huzior and several other residents believe that the city — or the land developer, Jim Paytas — should at least be responsible for building a fence to keep the hogs in the preserve and out of their yards.
Paytas, the subdivision’s builder and the president of its HOA, disagrees.
“It’s a natural disaster, like a hurricane or a tornado,” Paytas said. “Nothing we can take care of. Gators come out [of the preserve], too. It’s unfortunate, but it will eventually take care of itself.”
Although construction has been known to drive hogs out of the woods and into existing residential areas, Paytas pointed out that the land under construction to the north has been cleared for years, so it’s unlikely that this hog problem is man-made. He said it’s likely that heavy rains that have pushed the hogs out of the swamp.
But, he said, the trappers are at work, and “it should be getting better.”
As of the week of July 23, the hogs have started damaging common areas in the community, Meyers said. Paytas did not immediately respond to a message asking who would pay for those repairs.
The sound of trap doors
Until the hogs decide to go back into the wetlands, residents are left handling the damage and the repair costs.
Arnie and Rosemary Roma have had trouble trying to sell their home, which has been on the market for seven months, as new damage to their lawn continues to appear each day and night.
“We had a buyer yesterday,” Arnie Roma stated. “[They took a] second look around, brought the whole family. [They asked], ‘What happened? You need a new lawn.’ They didn’t make an offer. That was the end of it.”
So each night, as the Romas prepare for bed and put their grandchildren to sleep, they hear the slam of trap doors shutting on the cages in the backyard. The hogs begin to shuffle and grunt, and Arnie and Rosemary try to fall asleep to the sounds of the pigs.
Dozens of hogs have been caught. But many more remain.
— Brian McMillan contributed to this story.