CHALMETTE, La. - Local levees are being threatened by an unlikely source.
Feral hogs are rooting up levees foraging for food, and it’s created a pricey problem for local levee districts.
“It's a constant problem for us. We're always out here, our crews are always out here maintaining the levees repairing the damage that we see,” said Tim Doody, president of Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East.
Feral hogs can cause large areas of damage overnight, and it costs the east bank levee districts tens of thousands of dollars to repair each year.
And just as soon as they repair one spot, more damage pops up in another.
“The hogs are going to be creatures of opportunity,” said Doody. “It’s a huge pain in the neck for my maintenance guys.”
It's been an issue for years in rural areas of St. Bernard and New Orleans East, and it’s getting worse. The feral hog population is exploding.
“Thousands, thousands of hogs, and next month there will be many more than that,” said Doody.
The animals have started popping up more recently on the West Bank. Flood protection officials discovered damage from feral hogs after Hurricane Isaac.
“It’s just gotten exponentially worse and worse, and now we're having trouble keeping up with the repairs,” said Susan Maclay, president of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority- West.
That's why the flood authority on the West Bank has enlisted the help of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study the hogs and find a way to control the population. On the east bank, federal wildlife officials have already taken some steps.
“They actually do go up and try to control the population by having helicopter hunts. So they'll kill hundreds in a single night,” said Doody.
But feral hogs can reproduce so fast, that hardly makes a dent.
Doody said some of the problem areas, like the Chalmette Levee Loop, are on private lands, which makes it even trickier to control the swine population. Officials must get permission from landowners before hunting or trapping.
The hogs they do trap are given to needy families for food.
Of course, the swine aren't just on levees. Recent eyewitness video shows them running across the City Park golf course.
Maclay said the Jean Lafitte National Park is having issues with the growing hog population, too.
“In Louisiana, feral hogs are considered unregulated quadrupeds and may be taken year round during legal daylight shooting hours by holders of a valid hunting license,” according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. They can also be shot at night under certain conditions.
The Spanish originally introduced pigs to North America in the 1500s as another form of livestock, according to the Wildlife and Fisheries website. Through escape and release, pigs quickly adapted to life in the wild and became feral, according to the Wildlife and Fisheries website.