Ssssh! We are sitting in a wooden cabin on stilts, somewhere in Sussex. Nothing stirs. The last time the animal we are looking for was spotted in significant numbers was in in the Middle Ages, rootling through the deep-pile oak leaf carpet of the forest floor, just before it was hunted to extinction.
But three populations of wild boar have now become established in Britain, following their escape from farms which breed them for their excellent meat. While the ferocious creatures of lore have a tendency to burst from the undergrowth, the sounders – or boar families – of Sussex and Dorset live mostly peaceful, retired lives, keeping out of sight of poachers.
However, this month visitors to the Forest of Dean have been enjoying close encounters with the boar. They pet them, give them food, and presumably imagine that the creatures have the happy-go-lucky attitude of Pumbaa, the warthog in The Lion King. But as Simon Barr, owner of the hide, observes, “like any wild animal, they can be unpredictable”. Get between a sow and its young, and you won’t find it singing Hakuna Matata.
In this health-and-safety-conscious age, no landowner wants to risk a lawsuit, should a visitor find him or herself on the business end of a well-honed tusk. An adult boar, weighing 200kg, can be the size of a family sofa. When they charge, you know about it.
Sows produce eight or nine piglets per litter, and are capable of breeding twice a year. Left to themselves, numbers of wild boar would treble annually. This year has been a successful breeding season due to abundant acorns, beechmast and sweet chestnut. Consequently, the Forestry Commission, owners of the Forest of Dean, have decided that a family of boar popular with visitors known as the Beechenhurst Six will have to take its chances in a cull with 1,000 others. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/coun ... -secretive-wild-boar.html