Children in a Florida county may experience a cruel trick instead of sweet treats this Halloween thanks to a group of wild hogs that are wreaking havoc on homes, authorities said.
Feral hogs have recently been running amok throughout neighborhoods in Brevard County, on the Atlantic coast near Orlando, having already destroyed up to 17 yards by ripping up the grass in search of food and desecrating sidewalks with their feces, authorities said.
Law enforcement has hired licensed tracker James Dean, 52, for the month to capture the hogs in the hopes that they will not pose a danger to children trick-or-treating on Halloween. Dean told ABC News that he has already caught 11.
"There's really no telling how many hogs are out there," Dean said. "But there's a lot more than those 11 that are damaging yards." It can be expensive to repair the damage, with costs sometimes reaching over $1,000, he noted.
Feral hogs are common throughout Florida, and tend to forage wider in late fall in search of food such as grub worms and acorns, Dean said, adding that the population has been growing.
"They multiply like rabbits," said Dean. "It's just totally impossible to keep them under control."
Dean, a tracker of 20 years, said he uses a cooked mixture of corn, swamp water, sugar and powered yeast to lure the hogs into cages. He has set up traps before for Brevard County around both homes and golf courses. But with Halloween just around the corner, he said he plans to use a pack of dogs to chase the rest of the hogs back into the woods.
Hogs, though they do not commonly attack, can be provoked if confronted or if they feel someone may pose harm, Dean said. No attacks have been reported yet this year but Dean advises anyone who sees one to walk in the opposite direction as their attacks can be vicious and aggressive.
"I've had four of my ribs broken. I've had my finger re-attached," Dean said. "My buddy, he had his cap muscles torn out. He had to have surgery."
The Florida Department of Agriculture noted that it's up to the tracker whether a captured hog is kept alive or killed. "It's on a case-by-case basis," said D.J. Conner, a department representative.
Don Walker, communications director for Brevard County, said there are no plans to cancel Halloween festivities.
"That's one of the reasons why I want to bring in the dogs," Dean said. "So the kids can have their Halloween."