‘Meeting Hawgzilla’ on a pitch black Saturday night

Many Lincoln Parish residents have probably heard about the problem with the increasing feral hog population and the problems that has caused throughout the state, including right here in the piney, red-dirt hills of north Louisiana.

Three weeks ago I learned all too well about those issues — and it happened the hard way.

Hard as in a full-speed impact. Ever spent a Saturday night stranded in Dry Prong, Louisiana? Well I have. And while the assistance I received was helpful, all things considered I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone.

Traveling back to north Louisiana on March 11 after attending the state high school boys basketball championships in Lake Charles, I had a close encounter with one of those beasts plaguing our state and much of the U.S.

A way too close encounter.

Traveling north a few miles north of Dry Prong on a section of Highway 167 with not a light within miles, it happened — one of those monsters weighing more than 200 pounds darted out of the woods on my right side and ran right in front of my Ford Edge.

I only had time to lift my foot off the accelerator before it happened — an impact that immediately set my horn blaring a warning and my hazard lights flashing as a plume of steam from my broken radiator drifted over my windshield.

There was no time to come close to even tapping the brakes. Stunned for the briefest of instants, I quickly regained composure and slowly guided my now engine-less SUV to the side of the road.

I wasn’t sure at that point what I had hit. My bright lights were on when it darted out in front of me, and upon impact all I saw was the huge rear-end of an animal spinning like a Frisbee off to my left into the pitch black night.

Calling 911, I told them I assumed it was a deer. But after giving them my approximate location and then calling my wife to let her know I would be late getting home, every once in a while a northbound vehicle would come up in the distance behind me, and as I watched those vehicles swerve around the carcass laying 50-75 yards back in the middle of the road, I could tell by its girth it was likely a feral hog.

The Grant Parish deputy who struggled to drag it off to the side of the road a little while later told me it was a “big one weighing close to, if not more, than 200 pounds.”

After calling a tow truck for assistance, he told me that regulations didn’t allow him to cross parish lines and take me to Winnfield, so he turned back around and dropped me off at the only place in Dry Prong with signs of life at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night.

So I spent the next hour and a half on the sidewalk in front of the Dry Prong Dollar General store waiting for my brother-in-law to make it down from Ruston to rescue me..

At least I was able to get an RC Cola while I waited. I guess I should have bought a bag of salted peanuts to put into the drink — that sounds like the thing to do in a place like Dry Prong. And for the record, the Grant Parish deputy and Dollar General employees were great. And at least there was enough light so that I could see at least something.

Growing feral hog populations, now at an estimated 700,000 in Louisiana, are wreaking destruction on agricultural property according to a recent study by the LSU AG Center. 

According to that LSU Ag Center report, there is an estimated $91.1 million in total economic losses  for Louisiana farmers annually due to feral hogs. The LSU AgCenter estimates $66.2 million in agricultural commodity production losses and $24.9 million in non-production losses.

And that doesn’t include damages to vehicles being damaged in collisions with those monsters. The deputy who assisted me told me that it happens once or twice a night this time of year in those parts.

It wasn’t the first run-in our Edge has had with such a beast. Six or so years ago my wife ran into a large black animal on Kavanaugh Road here in Ruston. She was able to limp the vehicle home that night because the radiator wasn’t wiped out. The Ruston police officer who assisted my wife that night looked for the animal, but it made it far enough from the roadway so that we never really found out what it was.

My Edge finally was towed to Ruston last Monday, and hopefully we won’t be a one-vehicle family much longer. Our second vehicle is a 25-year-old Dodge Ram I didn’t want to trust to make the journey to Dry Prong  and have my wife come rescue me. Too bad, because with a newer second vehicle maybe I could have brought home bacon for months to come.

But keep in mind, we have a significant feral hog population here in Lincoln Parish, too. 

And be it near Dry Prong or right here in Lincoln Parish, I can assure you that you don’t want to meet up with “Hawgzilla” on a pitch black Saturday night, or any other time at that.