COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. - In response to hunters wanting a large county owned space to hunt, the Pepper Ranch Preserve may soon be opened up to hunters year round. However, some are questioning it's safety and purpose.
"Collier County's never had a property open to hunting," Melissa Hennig with Conservation Collier says.
That may soon be changing.
The idea started a few weeks ago with an experimental youth hunt on the preserve.
"The key there is they wanted to make sure the residents of Collier County were enjoying the benefits of hunting there, since they're the once that actually paid to acquire the property," Hennig explains.
So far the estimation of what the ranch will bring in with hunting fees and permits outweighs the cost to get the ranch up and running by $30.
Many also say the hunt program would help combat a large problem on the over 2500 acre parcel...wild hogs!
Hennig says they ruin the vegetation and cause issues with other animals. "They also eat native eggs. They tend to eat anything in their path, bird eggs, small chicks."
Some local hunters like Bob Dorta question the preserve's hog problem.
"Do you want to eradicate all pigs?"
Dorta says the county is assuming the problem is there when he believes they haven't really surveyed the area.
"They saw a little bit of rooting as evidence of hogs and they thought oh we have a big hog problem. They don't."
Hennig doesn't know how many hogs are on the preserve, but they aren't a protected species.
Some county commissioners have also questioned the safety of the hunt program since a road borders the ranch and it's less than a mile from Lake Trafford. Hennig says they plan to ban riffles that shoot further than shot guns. They are still working on other safety issues.
It's the hope of those putting the program together that it will be in place and approved by commissioners before the first scheduled hunt in September.