Feral pigs rampaged through the yard, dangerously close to my leaf lettuce and loofah gourds. They were followed closely by bobcats, looking for take-out for their kittens. Coyotes howled in the distance.
Not to worry I thought. There are county agencies, programs, divisions, organizations, and entire tasks forces dedicated to solving all my troubles. Right? My local government would help I thought. Someone is out there waiting for my phone call, sitting eagerly behind a government-issue metal desk in quiet anticipation of being of service—to me.
Okay, sometimes I’m a giant nitwit.
“Hello, this is Osceola County Animal Control. My name is Todd. How can I help you?”
Trying to win friends and influence Todd, I went for lighthearted.
“Hey there, Todd. I need to talk to your Feral Pig, Bobcat, Coyote Division.”
Todd was a dud and not easily influenced.
“Lady, it’s just me.” Another phone rang in the background. “Hang on,” he said. When he returned he was still not up for silliness or joshing about.
“What do you want?” he asked.
“I just need some info on the rampaging wildlife around here. I don’t want to get in any trouble, trying to do the right thing, be responsible, educated myself—that kind of thing. So, what’s the scoop on feral pigs? I just put in my spring gar . . . ”
“Not our responsibility, the federal government is supposed to be taking care of the feral pig population.” He did not sound like a true believer of anything.
I closed my eyes and tried to imagine somewhere in the bowels of a stately federal government building all the way up there in Washington DC, a kindly government worker, shoulders hunched, glasses fogged, heart contracting and expanding with worry over the approximately five to 12,000 feral pigs threatening Linda L. Zern’s newly sprouted Golden Queen Corn crop. Couldn’t do it. Couldn’t make myself see it, no matter how hard I squished my eyes shut.
“In other words, no one cares. So, what if I shoot the suckers?”
Todd began to chant.
“You cannot discharge a firearm within . . .”
“Not a problem. I live out.” Todd continued to chant city regulations. “Out, Todd, out not in. Out. I have to call state troopers if I’m attacked by roving bands of man eating men—out, way out.” The chant grew fainter.
He finally paused and said, “You can call a trapper and trap the pigs.”
“What? Like a big game hunter? Or somebody who digs a big pit and fills it with giant mousetraps? What?”
Finding out that I lived outside the city limits changed Todd’s attitude toward me. He softened. He warmed up; he came clean.
“Well, I’ll tell you, lady. We tried trapping pigs once out Poinciana way. There were thirty or forty pigs tearing up the place. We trapped one, and then somebody came and shot the pig in the trap and stole the meat,” he paused and then spoke slowly and distinctly. “There’s no hunting season on pigs.”
He sighed and then had to take another phone call.
“What about bobcats?”
“We don’t catch those, but if you trap them we’ll come pick them up, and there’s a hunting season on bobcat.”
All I could picture was a box, a stick, a string, and a hotdog—also claw marks—lots and many claw marks.
“What about the coyotes? I just don’t want to shoot first and ask questions later; you know?”
“Nobody’s in charge of those things, and you ain’t going to trap them either. No way,” he paused and spoke very very slowly and distinctly, “and there’s no hunting season on coyotes.”
I realized that “no hunting season” was code for “fire at will.”
“Okay, then Todd, pretty much what I’m hearing here is ‘Lady, you’re on your own.’”
He made a non-committal snort noise and hung up.
I had more questions. Like, exactly what does Animal Control control? If I report a giant panda attack will I get more action? If I shoot a giant panda, will I go to jail forever? If I’m attacked and eaten by a giant panda will you, Todd, be a pallbearer at my funeral?
Overall, it was good to have clarification on the bureaucratic process, because lady, trust me, you are on your own. Just ask Todd.
Linda (Stonewall) Zern