November 2004 Weekend
Short Story

Where are the Wild Hogs
Wild Hog

The Opening weekend of the hunting season in the Big Cypress Swamp has come and gone and I am late in writing a story about it.
Karl over at Bears Den Camp hosted the Big Cypress Cookout this year and it was a great success. A chance for all the sportsmen to renew friendships and make new ones.
The Big Cypress Swamp is under going changes both in nature and by man kind. We are going to miss Carol Clark, the acting Superintendent for the Big Cypress National Preserve. She is moving to the Canaveral National  Seashore, which is located in Florida, near the Space Center. I have not heard whom will replace her yet. I wish her the best in her new job.
Another change is more natural, I hope! The wild hogs are disappearing in the Big Cypress Swamp. What has caused this change? No one knows for sure! But theories abound!

WILD HOGS, GOING, GOING, GONE: Over the last three years or so, there has been less and less sign of wild hogs around the camps in the Little Deer area of the Big Cypress Swamp. Every year the wild hogs would come into our camp and root the grass up, looking for food. This has not happened in a long time. It was noticed that the smaller hogs were gone, only the bigger ones remained. Now even those large hogs seem to be going.
My theory is that the success of the Florida Panther program has reduced the wild hogs. A panther will pick off a litter of piglets, one by one, until they are all gone. Then momma, if she isn't big enough to protect herself, she will be panther dinner also. Only the big older hogs are safe from the panther. As they die off, there are no new ones to replace them.
Another theory was that the NPS was killing off the wild hogs because they are non-native animals. I asked Carol Clark if this was true and she said "No! The wild hogs are a food source for the panther and the NPS would not be allowed to remove a panther food source, with out making a study of the effect on the panther". This makes sense to me knowing the government and the way it works. But, I have been told, by another reliable source, that any wild hog seen near the border of or in Everglades National Park, would be removed permanently, (i.e.: Shot). This of course would not explain the hog reduction in the Little Deer (Turner River Unit) area.
There could be something more natural going on, the hog population has always been cyclic and has had its peaks and valleys, but this is the lowest valley ever. The last time I checked at the game check in station, not one hog had been harvested from the Turner River unit this year.

Buggy Breakdown
Break Down

Break Downs:
The Big Cypress Swamp is a rough place on vehicles. Time on each trip is spent on buggy maintenance, but even that will not prevent a break down now and then.
Hoss and Grant are starting to replace the front spindle in the picture to the left. On the right near Grant is the front tire that has run up under the frame, after it broke free.
This repair was fairly quick on a pleasant day. Its a lot less fun, standing knee deep in water in a pouring down rain.


Big Cypress Cookout: All the sportsmen from the surrounding camps were invited to come to Bear Den Camp for a Saturday night cookout. There was a real good turnout for the second year of restarting this tradition.  The sportsmen, arrived after dark. There were a few new faces and plenty of old ones. I was happy to see, all that arrived were greeted like old friends, even the sportsmen new to the group.
After an excellent meal we had a friendly competition between the camps. We had a potato gun Skunk Ape shoot off. After instructions on the operation of the potato gun, we brought out the skunk ape and he took many hits. The competition was close this year, first no one seemed to be able to hit the ape and then it seemed no one could miss.
This friendly competition was eventually won after several, sudden death, shoot off rounds.

Sportsmen at Bears Den
Bears Den Big Cypress Cookout
The Skunk Ape glares at the winners
The Skunk Ape shootout winner and runner up

Story by Steve - November, 2004