Extinct in Ireland, September 16th, the wild boar


This is one of those entries in this month of Irish extinctions since the coming of humanity which can provoke a double-take. For the wild boar, as I have blogged some time ago, has experienced something of a resurgence in Ireland.

In Whittled Away, Pádraic Fogarty has a tables of extinct mammals and birds. In this table the Wild Boar’s extinction is discussed thus:

Definitive evidence from a scapula found in Dalkey Island from 6870 years bp but thereafter archaeological remains are confused with domestic pigs. It may have gone extinct during the Neolithic period, 5000 years ago, but some think it has persisted much longer.

Fogarty discusses the wild boar at more length in the chapter proper. He is evidently sceptical of the rapid designation of the wild boar as an invasive species in Ireland. He queries the logic of this decision on several grounds, for instance the evidence used for it was based on North America where it undoubtedly was an invasive species, and wonders why the red deer whose trajectory as an Irish species is not dissimilar is protected as opposed to dubbed invasive.

When I posted before on wild boars I quoted this passage from a site on birding in France, I hope I will be forgiven the liberty of posting it again:

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!

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