Wild hog mauls Melbourne wildlife trapper, sending him to emergency room
Showing surprising strength, the aggressive wild hog shoved the metal cage in an attempt to break loose — and its sharp teeth slashed wildlife trapper James Dean's right leg, ripping open a gaping gash.
Then the 200-pound hog seized Dean with its jaws.
"He grabbed me by the leg and shredded the inside of my left calf. And then when I fell to the ground, apparently I hit my head, I guess," Dean recalled.
"I've got stitches on my eye. I've got stitches on my right arm. I don't know know how many stitches I've got total, but I got sent in as a trauma alert to the hospital," he said.
Dean said the Melbourne hog attack was his closest brush with death in his 20-odd year trapping career — he lost so much blood that he started slipping out of consciousness.
His son, Christian, applied a makeshift tourniquet to his right leg, and an ambulance transported him to Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne for emergency surgery.
"It was scary — because I didn't know if I was going to survive. Because he was all over me," Dean said.
The hog attack happened about 3 p.m. Monday. Dean declined to reveal the exact location, saying it occurred in the Lake Washington Road vicinity on Melbourne's western outskirts. He said a property owner had called him after a wild pig chased two young girls.
Dean said he trapped the hog in a cage, then tried to move it into his "transfer trap" that he typically winches up into the flatbed of his black Dodge Ram 1500 truck. However, "this pig was a lot stronger than I thought he would be." After their violent struggle, the trapper eventually regained control and secured the beast.
The wild pig was euthanized after Dean was taken away by ambulance, he said.
Wild hogs are an invasive species found in all 67 Florida counties. The animals pose risks to humans via attack and collisions with vehicles and aircraft, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports.
"Feral swine have been aggressive towards and even attacked farmers, golfers, hikers, and picnickers. Aggression can be increased when they associate people with food because of handouts and improper waste disposal," the agency reports.
What's more, feral swine can transmit more than 30 viral and bacterial diseases — including swine brucellosis — and nearly 40 parasites to humans, the agency warns. Dean said doctors told him that if he doesn't take antibiotics, he could lose both legs.
Limping and walking gingerly Wednesday, Dean quipped, "I could feel better." White gauze wrapped his lower legs, and a row of stitches lay along his swollen right eye. One of his smaller wounds, on his left forearm, required three staples to close. He just turned 56.
"He's definitely dodged death on multiple occasions. He's been bitten by rattlesnakes, water moccasins, you name it," Christian Dean said.
"One time, he had a Muscovy duck claw: It was a few inches away from his heart. That was another situation where he was luckily able to survive," Christian Dean said.
On New Year's Eve in 2016, an illegally unleashed pit bull mauled Dean's left arm at the Woodlake Village Apartments in Palm Bay. The pit bull had charged and attacked Dean's girlfriend's leashed service dog, and he pulled off the pit bull and wrestled it into an animal trap, Brevard County Animal Services and Enforcement reported.
Dean underwent surgery at Holmes Regional Medical Center for those arm injuries.
Neale is the South Brevard watchdog reporter at FLORIDA TODAY.
Contact Neale at 321-242-3638 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @RickNeale1