ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LA (WVUE) - With its stately oaks and miles of nature trails, it's not hard to see why thousands of people visit Fontainebleau State Park each year. But lately there have been some uninvited visitors.
"I've had guests call me to the campsites and they are concerned," said park ranger Jennifer Wallace
The field near the park's beach was recently plowed by feral hogs who got hungry after the recent snowfall.
"The ground was soft, it gave them easy pickings," said Wallace.
"It's like mowing grass in hell. It's very uneven, and it makes the ground ugly," said head ranger Faoud Harb.
Park hosts often have to run them off with their golf carts, especially near the campsites.
"We have one that will walk up and see what's on your plate," said camper Randy Guarino.
Some of the wild hogs, especially the males, can get up to 200 pounds and can be dangerous. The state agriculture department has been actively capturing them and took away more than 150 this past year.
"They are causing $1.5 billion in damage across the United States. In Louisiana, it's estimated at $50 (million) to $75 million a year," said Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain.
At Fontainebleau, trappers use huge traps which are lowered by a switch triggered by cell phone when the hogs are spotted on video monitors. They can capture as many as 20 hogs at a time.
"Since we moved 150 pigs out, our deer population is getting better," said Wallace.
So far, nobody's been hurt by the hogs, and park officials want to keep it that way.
"We want them always to remember they are feral and not domesticated. We don't want them to try and feed them or harass them," said Harb.
They say with the help of trappers, camping at Fontainebleau should remain safe in spite of the hog invaders.
The federal government is now testing a poison to deal with the feral pig population. The sodium nitrite looks like it can do the job, but the challenge is to get it into feeders that won't be compromised by other animals and get into the food chain.
Right now, hunters and trappers aren't killing enough feral hogs, to put a significant dent in their population.