Wild boar in the Forest of Dean could be a danger to walkers

There are concerns over the growing wild boar population in the Forest of Dean and the threat they may pose to people. But are these wild animals actually dangerous? Hannah Seaton reports. 

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The numbers of wild boar in the Forest of Dean have increased to around 1,000 in recent years, and various incidents have raised concerns over whether the animals, which are also present in other forested areas in Britain, could be a danger to the public. 

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A 47-year-old man was killed last month after a wild boar ran out in front of his car. Earlier this month a couple walking in the Forest of Dean were attacked by a wild boar and their dog was savaged. The pair only managed to escape injury after the husband, brandishing a fallen tree branch, beat the boar off his wife.

Whilst cases like these raise concerns, generally incidents involving wild boar are rare, as the animals are not interested in approaching or attacking humans. It’s possible, however, that these intelligent animals will increasingly approach built-up areas if they work out that by foraging in gardens and allotments they can find more food than in wild woodland, reported the Telegraph, and as a fully-grown wild boar can weigh 25 stone, run at up to 30mph and leap over 6ft fences, a run-in with a boar could easily lead to injury.

The Gloucestershire police have warned people to take extra care and stick to marked woodland paths in the Forest of Dean area.

400 hundred years ago wild boar were hunted to extinction in the UK, returning only to the Forest of Dean about a decade ago when, according to the Forestry Commission, a group of around 60-farm reared wild boar were dumped in an illegal release near the village of Saunton on the western edge of the Forest above the Wye Valley. With no predators, an abundance of food and an average litter of six piglets, the boar thrived, and their numbers are now estimated at around 1,000. 

At the moment there are no restrictions on hunting wild boar during breeding season and the Forestry Commission are trying to increase the number it culls each year, but they face criticism from animal rights groups, who say that the boar pose no real danger to the public. A spokesperson for the Commission said: “We have established a target population of 400 animals. Our plan is to bring the number of boar down to 400, and then maintain the population at that level through a continuing programme of culling during the late summer through to early spring each year.”

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Marina Pacheco, CEO of The Mammal Society, said: Are wild boar actually a danger? Yes and no.  There have been one or two reports where people have been injured after their dogs have been chased by wild boar protecting their piglets. Horses have also sometimes been ‘spooked’ by wild boar, but nobody has been injured. The important message is to keep dogs under control, and do not attempt to get close to, or feed, wild boar. As to the culls, we support biodiversity and are calling for urgent research to evaluate the impacts, both positive and negative, of wild boar on the countryside and on people.”