Hunters kill thousands of wild boars as population explodes
German wild boar hunters are reporting one of their best seasons since World War II after moderate weather and plentiful food led to a wild pig population boom.
“The standard now is a doubling in the population every year – if we let them,” German Hunter’s Association (DJV) spokesman Torsten Reinwald told The Local on Friday, adding that the wild boar is an opportunistic omnivore and can make do in most situations, even outside of its natural job of aerating the forest floor by rooting around for food.
Boars don't need much beyond warmth and food, he said, and there are plenty of both in Germany. Milder winters mean that boar herds can breed year round, and expanding commercial crops provide more food than ever before. Corn acreage has tripled over the last 30 years and seems to hit the spot for the furry foresters.
The German Hunters' Association announced on Wednesday that between April 2007 and March 2008, hunters killed 477,000 wild boars — 66 percent more than the previous year just to keep the population stable.
“A herd can cause up to €1,500 worth of damage a night, once they get settled in a corn field,” Reinwald explained, adding that a herd, or sounder, can have between 6 and 30 members.
More boars are also being seen in urban areas, where they tear up gardens and cemeteries, and sometimes cause traffic accidents. Last month the DJV reported that some 23,000 wild pigs became road kill last year – up by a third from 2006.
Meanwhile Berlin estimates some 10,000 boars live within city limits alone. But some residents are making the urban boar problem worse by feeding the animals. “It’s not as if there is a real estate market for wild boars and the big city is advertised in bold letters," Reinwald said. "It’s mainly people making food more accessible for them, which takes their natural respect for humans away."
So what to do when you’re strolling through a park and cross paths with a furry swine?
“If a sounder has taken over a jogging path, just give them the right to do so and walk away. Might is right,” Reinwald told The Local. “Don’t corner them, don’t attack them,” he added.
A single boar on the prowl could be what Reinwald called a “Teenie-Tusker,” or an adolescent looking for a mate. “But most of the time it is a sow with piglets, as they separate from the herds to nurse. They are obviously quite sensitive to disturbances during this time,” he said.
In October, a wild boar killed a 72-year-old hunter outside of Potsdam – the first such death in Germany in modern memory.
There is no sense in running from a Wildschwein, Reinwald said. The porkers can weigh up to 90 kilos and run at speeds as high as 55 kilometres per hour - which is almost twice as fast as humans run. If they are startled, boars – particularly sows defending their piglets – will charge, wielding dangerous tusks and teeth.
But the blossoming boar population might not be such an unpopular development in a country that favors boar venison above other wild game meat. After all, the DJV website offers a friendly link to wild boar recipes to accomodate the more than 11,000 tonnes of boar meat taken by hunters in the last year. Wildschweinbraten anyone?