Every couple of years there seems to be a flurry of media interest in the presence of otherwise of wild boards in Ireland – as we can see from this 2012 Irish Times story and the rather lurid coverage in 2014 of a boar in Co Clare. One section in Paddy Woolworth’s 2012 Irish Times story brings this a little closer to home:
The wild boar is a formidable and hairy beast that makes the farmyard pig look like a weakling. It has been making unscheduled appearances in our countryside with increasing frequency. A 180kg male was shot near a school in Co Tipperary, and there are also recent records of boar breeding wild in Co Wicklow and Co Kilkenny, plus sightings in other counties.
I haven’t been able to find much about this Tipperary school incident, which I would obviously have a certain personal interest in! Here is a link to a PDF of the Irish Wildlife Trust’s submission to the Governments Wild Boar Risk Assessment – though it is undated.
I would be curious to find out more and what empirical studies have been done of the wild boar in Ireland. While reading about birding in France, I rather randomly came across this birding site which discusses boars in France and which illustrates the principle of unintended consequences in any kind of species control.
There is of course another aspect to hunting; that of culling. Taking the wild boar – the sanglier, as an example, the estimated French population in 2013 was in excess of two million, with a population explosion in recent years as a result of human activity – global warming and radical changes in agricultural land use. The wolf is historically the principle natural predator – a species virtually non-existent in France despite a mini revival in the French alps and Massif Central. Needless to say this will never be a viable future solution here. So it follows that assuming numbers need to be controlled, hunting is the only solution. Sangliers certainly love maize (a thirsty crop at the best of times), as well as root vegetables and vines, amongst much else on this adaptable omnivore’s varied menu. In an attempt to stop the boars roaming into fields and vineyards, hunters have been encouraged to create feeding zones in woods and forests – often maize. But this has actually exacerbated the problem by artificially concentrating large populations, thereby creating perfect breeding grounds and leading to even larger packs of well-nourished animals. These zones have also apparently been responsible for accelerating the time it takes for them to reach adulthood (i.e. they can now breed at a younger age).
Interestingly, the hunters have been forced to reimburse farmers for crop damage, a bill that has much increased in recent years to a massive 50 million Euros (in 2011), but in spite of spending most of the year in the woods, they don’t seem to be able to keep the population increase in check. And as a sign of innate intelligence, according to hunters sangliers have recently developed a new tactic when devouring maize. When they enter the fields, they leave the outer edges of the field intact, presumably to hide what they’re doing deeper in the field completely out of sight!