NATURE IN CONTROL
Information about Wild Boar
Wild boar (Sus scrofa)
were once native to Great Britain but became extinct some 300 years ago. However, following escapes or deliberate releases from wild boar farms or animal collections, they have now established breeding populations in the wild. The main colonies are in Kent/East Sussex, Dorset/Devon and the Forest of Dean, with regular reports of further releases and sightings which have included areas of Wales and Scotland.
The wild boar is the ancestor of the domestic pig and since the first escapes there have been reports of hybridisation, especially in the vicinity of outdoor pig-rearing units. The actual scale of this problem is unknown but hybrids will typically display a shorter snout with a dished profile, smaller shoulders, larger ears, a curly tail and the absence of thick brown under-fur. Purebred European boar are likely to be longer in the leg, typically dark in colour with a coarse bristly coat, a large head, long straight snout, relatively flattened body and a straight tail.
Adult males weigh in the region of 120 to 150kg and will stand 70 to 90cm at the shoulder with an overall body length of approximately 150cm. These animals will possess sharp tusks which will grow progressively from two years of age. Females are about 30 per cent lighter in weight than males and both sexes have a mane of longer hair running down their backs. Piglets are red-brown to ochre coloured, with yellowish longitudinal stripes for the first four to five months. This coat is then moulted to a uniform red-brown fur which in turn develops into the adult coat at about 10 to 12 months.
With good feeding, both sexes can mature in under a year. Sows can come into heat between October and May but the height of the season is between November and January. Subordinate females coming into season may be synchronised with the dominant sow. Gestation is three months, three weeks, three days. They are prolific and regular breeders, with litter sizes increasing with age. When food is abundant, sows can produce two litters a year and this poses issues over the practicality of a close season. They have the potential for very rapid population growth if not actively managed. Defra has assessed the population in England to be 500 -1,000 animals but those who are actively managing boar consider this to be a gross underestimate.
Who can legally control feral wild boar in the Forest of Dean?
Feral wild boar on the public forest estate (land managed by the Forestry Commission) may only be shot by the professional, authorised wildlife rangers employed by the Forestry Commission. The shooting of feral wild boar on Forestry Commission land is regulated by internal guidance, regular skills testing and safety audits so that there is absolutely no risk to members of the public accessing the Forest.
Significant areas of privately owned and managed land lie in and around the Forest, and this is now as likely to harbour feral wild boar as the wider woodland. Where the land owner / land manager holds the shooting rights, holds the appropriate firearm and firearms licence, and has the competence to shoot safely – then it is perfectly legal for that private land owner / land manager to shoot boar on their land. The Deer Initiative best practice guides for wild boar (see www.wild-boar.org.uk ) are recommended reading.
Any land owner may choose to protect their land from feral wild boar by maintaining / strengthening their boundaries, and again the Deer Initiative maintain a best practice guide for fencing standards to stop feral wild boar.
A common complaint from land owners, including private homeowners, to the Forestry Commission is that feral wild boar are getting from the Forest onto their land. However, all property owners need to note that maintenance of their boundaries in a boar proof condition is their responsibility.
Why do we need to control feral wild boar in the Forest of Dean?
The growing population of feral wild boar in the Forest of Dean has led to a steady increase in significant impacts upon the resident community, as well as visitors to the Forest.
The most obvious sign of feral wild boar is the rooting of amenity grasslands. Large areas of grassland, grass verges, parks, sports pitches and church-yards can be rooted up in a few hours. The wild boar have hugely powerful snouts and are able to dig up and turnover grasslands amazingly quickly as they search out food. Road side verges and areas of open grasslands in the villages are easy targets, and very visible signals of the presence of boar and cannot be fenced.
Wider social impacts of boar have been reported as people, often the older and more vulnerable in the community, being afraid to go out at dusk or at night due to the presence of boar, exacerbating existing issues around social isolation. In some cases the repeated howling of dogs in response to the presence of boar through the night, night after night has been reported.
Public safety continues to be raised as a concern by many local people and their representatives. The number of road traffic accidents involving boar overtook those involving deer in 2013, and the numbers continue to rise. People have reported being chased by boar, and attacks on dogs are not uncommon. Horse riders also report that some horses are disturbed by the presence of boar, and have escaped from their paddocks, or thrown their riders after being spooked whilst riding in the Forest.
The social impacts of feral wild boar were captured in a research report commissioned from the University of Worcester ‘The Social Aspects of Wild Boar in the Forest of Dean’
Ecologically, boar at low densities are probably good for the natural environment as the rooting and wallowing behaviours break-up static eco-systems and allow an increased range of plant species and insect fauna to grow. However, as the density of boar rises the negative issues of boar, such as continually disturbing the same area of ground so that all is left is bare mud, and eating insects and other plant material could be damaging to specific species in the long run. There are several important butterfly sites in the Forest that have been repeatedly rooted over at the same time butterfly counts in those same areas have seen declining numbers – but proving cause and effect is not easy.
With no natural predators, high levels of reproduction and ideal habitat for food and shelter the current population growth may continue until the population density in the core reaches a level whereby the population starts to self-regulate through limited food resources. It is speculated that this may start to occur when the boar population of the public forest estate in the Dean starts to approach 10,000 animals. As the density of animals in the core of the Forest goes up, the population pressure also pushes the boar out into an ever widening ring of surrounding land.
The aim of the Forestry Commission’s management of feral wild boar is, in the short term, to stop the annual population growth; and then start to bring the population back down towards the target level.
Are wild boar dangerous?
Wild boars are strong animals that can run relatively fast. The canines in adult males can inflict serious injuries in case of an attack. Due to their solid body build wild boars are considered to be particularly dangerous when involved in car accidents.
Boars should not be approached, as they can be dangerous, especially if guarding piglets.
How fast can a wild boar run?
Wild pigs can run up to 30 mph. They can jump over fences less than 3 feet high and have “climbed” out of pig traps with walls 5 to 6 feet high.
Are wild boar cannibals?
Pigs are known to commit infanticide.
Also known as "savaging," cannibalism among pigs is associated with sows. ... In this case, cannibalism is sometimes attributed to a hormone change prior to giving birth, but it can also be related to a pig's nervousness, stress, or external environment.