Thursday, 11 April 2013

CALL FOR INCREASED CULL OF WILD BOAR

Just as we were all relaxing after the last cull, the usual suspects are calling for an increase in cull numbers of boar.

After a successful year-long period of no hunting between September 2011 to September 2012, the Forestry Commission decided to vetoe the Boar Scrutiny Meeting's findings and went all-out to secure a bag of 100 boar for themselves.  This has been outlined previously, but in essence the Forestry Commission came to an agreement with Friends of the Boar, Martin Goulding and the Verderer Ian Standing to continue the closed season until a new census had been undertaken.

It was remarked at that meeting that over the year long peace, boar sightings were down, as were complaints and even the boar diggings.  Waiting a few more months for a better census to be undertaken seemed appropriate.

But the day after the meeting, the Forestry Commission went ahead with a cull of 100 animals between September 2012 and January 2013 with no such census.

We had just witnessed a very peaceful forest with little diggings from the boar.  On exactly the 1st September 2012, hunting began and boar instantaneously came back into villages and began to dig at the roadside verges again.  This is precisely what Friends of the Boar had predicted would happen and we were right.  it is now a pattern of behaviour that we cannot ignore.

We warned of more problems if another cull were to take place, and of course it did.  From September 2012 until early March 2013, roadside diggings and digging at picnic sites resumed.  The Forestry Commission killed 78 boar plus another 25 boar killed by other non-speciefied means in the space of 5 months.  If our estimates of population were correct this amounted to a 50% loss of boar. 

The spectre of population rebound may still be felt if it were not for a huge toll on piglets over this harsh winter, with many sows losing all their litter or presumably aborting due to the lack of nutrition available this winter (due to both recent cold and a poor acorn / nut harvest in the Autumn)

The prolonged cold spell plus the diminishing extent of suitable shelter due to tree felling has resulted in many sows losing theor piglets or aborting them.


The culling halted in January 2013.  What happened next was a repeat of the aftermath of the last cull.  Diggings at roadsides continued for 2 months and then stopped.  It is now difficult to see a boar or new roadside / village diggings.

What is so frustrating in our fight to stop the needless and unscientific culling is the severe lack of knowledge about the boar.  This lack of knowledge underpins the calls for culling based upon nothing other than opinions about road diggings.

Here is some facts about road diggings.

It takes only 1 adult boar to dig up many square metres of soil in one night.  If the digging is along a road a single boar may have dug along 5 miles or more of verge, possibly more.  If this happens in the winter months when the grass is not growing, the exposed soil remains for maybe 4 or 5 months.  The nightly addition of diggings over the winter months can result in what seems to be total destruction of some road verges.  The fact is that this digging could be the reselt of very few boar.

By the end of the winter after many frosts and much rainfall, the diggings have slumped into small mounds and eventually the grass will begin to grow back through.  In the next month or so, by late April or May, the roadside will once again be verdant with new grass growth and hopefully new flowers hitherto dormant in the compacted and neglected roadsides and woodland rides.

Ignorance is the greatest weapon against the boar.  The Forestry Commission are actively promoting press attention at the moment here, reeling off their usual mantra of populations doubling (it used to be a trebling) and an inflated population estimate of 600 boar or more, based upon no evidence whatsoever.

Yes, the Forestry Commission undertook a secret night census recently (March 2013), claiming to find 30 boar in one night.  Friends of the Boar did the same, in the very same area, and found just 7 boar.  That is, 7 boar in an area of 2 square kilometres.  This area is known to be a hot spot for boar due to its quality of shelter for the boar.  What we are confident of is that we did not count the same boar more than once!  It was undertaken during the time that many sows were having piglets and so this figure is a maximum and not some average.  

Maybe by extrapolation, the Forestry Commission are happy to decieve the public once again by stating half-truths about doubling numbers, but we are not.

There is no need for a cull.  There is no evidence of booming numbers and no evidence the boar are affecting other animals.  We will provide this proof when appropriate.

Sow having a scratch in the snow, March 2013.  This mature sow had no signs of having had piglets.


As an aside, it was amusing to read in a local rag today (11th April 2013) that many people are in support of an increase boar cull because of the mess the boar make.  In the same issue was a story of a lady having to be rescued by the Fire Service after she became stuck up to her thighs in the mud left behind by Forestry Commission operations!  How so very true.  The Forest of Dean is currently in a digraceful state thanks to tree felling - and from what we can see this is NOT felling to combat Ash dieback or Larch infection, but felling of healthy oak and spruce.

There is an urgent need to highlight the hypocrisy.

DJS

Friday, 15 March 2013

WILD BOAR LIKE FROGS!


It's been 9 years since a (still) unknown person released approximately 60 wild boar into the Forest of Dean in November 2004.

Over these years, both professional and amateur conservationists have speculated upon the potential problems that wild boar may create with regards a few species of animal and plant.

First was the worry about wild boar digging up bluebells here in the Forest of Dean, a location that shows off an amazing spectacle of these endangered plants each year in May.  But as always, it isn't just the experts that speculate, because as soon as a potential problem is mooted in the local press or on an equally ill-informed social networking forum, the public who do not like the boar are quick to condemn.

Friends of the Boar would like to assure its followers that we do not jump to any conclusions without first considering facts and published scientific evidence.  In the case of bluebells, what seemed a plausible concern, after 9 years of close observation, we can conclude that bluebells are not under any threat at all.  In fact recent research in 2011 by Defra confirmed that wild boar do not threaten the bluebells (Harmer, Straw and Williams, Royal Forestry Society Quarterly Journal of Forestry, July 2011).

And then we have had some concerns from Butterfly Conservation regarding wild boar digging up larval food plants of several species of butterfly, the most prominent of which are wood white and grizzled skipper.

But Friends of the Boar are not complacent in this research either, and we have spoken to a few branches of Butterfly Conservation that have both these butterfly species and wild boar on their reserves.  To date, it would seem that wild boar have had no detrimental influence on these butterfly species, but may in fact be enhancing the populations.  The Sussex branch of Butterfly Conservation have been in contact and they say that they have been holding both Wild Boar and Grizzled Skipper walks in a local woodland for some years now, and there has been no noticeable affect upon the butterflies.  Our local Gloucestershire group also say that although research is ongoing, to date no evidence is forthcoming on the detrimental impact of wild boar upon butterfly populations.

Sadly, here in the Forest of Dean we are now hearing from a new group of amateur reptile and amphibian recorders from GlosARG who are calling for a "management" (a.k.a. cull) of wild boar on the grounds that the boar destroy amphibian and reptile habitats, and more astonishingly, they claim that the eating of frogs, snakes and lizards by wild boar will endanger them!  Any good biologist would call this the food chain.

We have asked the founders of this local amphibian and reptile group for the evidence of how boar are detrimentally affecting herpetile numbers, but they have responded with simple quotes from "authorities" such as Wikipedia that boar eat frogs, etc. and adders need help!


Frogs breed prodigously and amourously because they are predated.
As a general rule, the more offspring an animal has is a response to the harshness of it's environment.

For snakes such as the declining adder, they are claiming it is prudent to cull boar in such a way that achieves some notion of "balance" within nature.  What and who decides this balance isn't proposed, but there is an assumption that the claimant is happy to play God in formulating such a "balance".

We feel that playing God by any individual is not the correct way forwards.

There is actually a scientific paper that addresses predation of American herpetiles by boars (D. B. Jolley 2010 et al., Journal of Mammalology, 91(2):pp519-524).   It studied the stomach content of feral American boar and showed that boar do indeed eat lots of frogs (spade frogs) with less than 10% of the boars' herpetile consumption being anoles (non-venomous tree snakes) and other herpetiles.  Anecdotal evidence suggest that boar sometimes "hunt" spade frogs emerging from winter burrows.  Maybe true?

But we are concerned with UK boars and how they inter-relate with other animals here in the UK.

Nevertheless, there is now another voice with an emotive and unscientific judgement call to cull the boar. They believe in pre-emptive strikes upon boars and attaining some mythical "balance" between species is called for, and they are promoting this vague viewpoint to the local press and other wildlife enthusiasts (all part of their publicity campaign).

Little do they seem to recognise that a multitude of other predators also eat frogs, reptiles and snakes, including some endangered raptors such as Goshawk.  Furthermore, the complications rise (with artificial management) when one considers that snakes eat frogs too, not to mention other endangered species such as water voles.

What is never highlighted in such predation studies (including even boar predation by wolves) is the obvious fact that stomach contents can be derived from scavenged animals too - the frogs were already dead when eaten!  No good scientist utilising "stomach" evidence of a predator or omnivore will ever claim it proves predation of living animals!  When did you last eat a live cow or live sheep - but your stomach may well have a lamb chop or steak digesting within!

Friends of the Boar have witnessed many times newts and frogs thriving in woodland puddles and even wild boar wallows!  Many amphibian species can walk many hundreds of metres in search of new habitat.

Below are photographs of such a boar wallow with frog spawn.




Frog spawn in a wild boar wallow, March 2013.
Wild Boar are engineers of biodiversity and ecological balance.


A wild boar had wallowed in this puddle in the last few hours, with some spawn splashed outside the wallow.  We observed that the boar had not eaten all the spawn, if any.  There was no other pond or water body for maybe 1 mile away. 

In conclusion, wild boar may very well eat newts, frogs or snakes but does that make those populations threatened?  Are they eating dead herpetiles in preference to live ones?   Evidence is required before any claim to cull the boars even if the self-styled Utopian vision is a "balance" for nature.  We need quantitative evidence that includes reptile populations pre- and post- boar arrivals and qualitative evidence that boar take significant live animals or adversely affect habitats.  We don't believe this evidence exists yet.

Perversely, however, the wild boar can be proven to create entirely new habitats (a pond or even just muddy ground) for some herpetile populations to thrive, in this case the common frogs' survival and dispersal. 

Can the boar also achieve some redress to any species population currently overpopulating an environment, given that boar and many other predators have been absent for hundreds of years? 

How difficult is it to propose that soil mootings of boar create dark patches of warm dark earth exposing invertebrate food sources for herpetiles and also help to warm snakes before a hunt?   Has anyone out there any evidence of this?

David J Slater


Saturday, 9 March 2013

TURF TEAM - Still in Operation!


Friends of the Boar have been out and about over the last 4 months actually meeting with real people who have requested help with boar damage to their gardens.


We now have a team of about 12 people who will happily visit you if you have a problem with the boar, and we will talk to you about how to possibly prevent a recurrence.


Obviously, we will listen to people's views about the boar and respect them.  Not everyone's cup of tea to have boar outside your house, but we have found that a reassurance on the unlikeliness of any aggression from the boar is welcoming.


Our list of people helped include several individuals, but also Drybrook Rugby Club, The Rising Sun public house in Moseley Green, and Joy's Green Parish Council.


Allied to this, we have given talks on the subject in the efforts to spread real information and talk about our experiences when out looking or photographing the boar. 


We really want to meet people out there rather then just communicate in hyperspace!


We have had some offers of support and we hope to get some community involvement soon too in helping us repair damage.


If there are any groups out there who would like to participate in helping repair damage to gardens, meet us, and in the process do a little conservation help for the boar please let us know.  It's really not that difficult to repair the grass.


Here are a few photos of projects to date:

Private garden in Pillowell Village, repaired and assistance with boar security.

Drybrook Rugby Club, grass banks and roadside repairs.


Private garden near brierley in middle of forest.  Paths and repairs to garden.

PLEASE NOTE - we have been told by a Highways spokesman that we cannot repair roadsides even if we wanted to, so sorry about that.  And before you ask us to repair picnic sites or any other bit of public forest estate, please understand that this is just not feasible for such a small group of volunteers, but we will always try our best.  Our focus is on private gardens for the time being.

Thanks for your support in advance,

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Respected Viewpoint - and a note on population dynamics

Timely!   This month's BBC Wildlife magazine (March 2013 vol 31/3) features an interesting article on the Cull Debate for several UK species of animal.  Included in the piece is a section on wild boar that we feel you may be interested.  Friends of the Boar were interviewed.




BBC WILDLIFE MAGAZINE March 2013
Click to enlarge



Here's the relevant boar text:

"At least cormorants have the RSPB to fight their corner. In any discussion of culling, it's noticeable that birds have more friends than mammals.  The wild boar of the Forest of Dean, for instance, have just a few die hard activists, in the shape of Friends of the Boar, campaigning to stop an ongoing cull.

The differences between this issue and the cormorant one is striking.  Though views about how to deal with cormorants may be polarised, there is at least agreement about the impact they're having.  In contrast, nobody can even agree what status the wild boar has in Britain.

Historically, the wild boar was native, bit it had probably died out here by the end of the 13th century.  The animals that have recolonised areas such as the Forest of Dean escaped, or were let loose, from game farms, and are described as "feral" by some (but not all) scientists.  So are today's boar native or non-native?  Wild or feral?

Then there are disagreements over boar numbers.  The Forestry Commission says there are more than 600 in the forest of Dean; it wanted to reduce that number to 400.  Friends of the Boar says there are only 100-200 animals: quite a difference.

There's also the issue of what impact boar have.  When they first recolonised, botanists voiced concerns that Britain might lose its bluebell woods.  According to David Slater of Friends of the Boar, this has not been the case.

"Boar dig up grassy amenity areas, picnic spots and gardens," he tells me, "but not only are they good for forest ecology, they provide wildlife watching and photographic opportunities.  The Forest of Dean sorely needs sources of revenue like this."

But there are other issues to consider, not least the impact of boar on agriculture.  Ian Harvey, the Forestry Commission's wildlife manager in the Forest of Dean, says that one farmer lost £20,000 over 3 years through boar raiding his wheat field.  What the government and farmers fear most, however, is the transmission to pigs of diseases such as classical swine fever.

Since the Forestry Commission began shooting boar in 2008, the cull target has risen steadily - from 30 in the first year to more than 150 in the fourth - in response to the target species' perceived population increase.  "The problem," Harvey says, "is that wild boar numbers can increase very sharply over a short timescale."

"Indeed," he adds, "biologists have noted that boar are the only large ungulate in the world with the population dynamics of rodents.  We've seen litters in every month of the year and we've killed sows with up to 12 foetuses.  You need to cull 70-80% of the population just to stand still."



 

click to enlarge
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The rest of the article covers other animals, and if you wish to read it click on the images and hopefully you have good eyesight to read the small print!

Friends of the Boar gave answers to many of the questions the author preferred to leave unanswered, such as feral versus wild, and this we will cover in a forthcoming post very soon as promised.

We will also post a piece shortly on how the population dynamics cited in this piece is simply a nonsense.

The Forestry Commission met with Friends of the Boar and this topic was discussed.  So we are disappointed that Ian Harvey can present such silly population figures to BBC Wildlife.  It seems that some people just cannot understand simple maths or concepts, and this now includes one new animal "welfare" group here in the Forest of Dean who now support the Forestry Commission in the promotion of large numbers of boar being culled each year based upon such silly estimates on paper.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

CULL ENDS but does the KILLING?

The Forestry Commission have just announced that they have ceased their cull of wild boar having achieved their target of 100 animals.

Although still to be confirmed, we believe that rangers killed about 75 animals, with another 25 or so succumbing to road traffic accidents since the cull started back in September 2012.

We are happy to see that road casualties are now being taken into consideration by the Forestry Commission.  This is a positive move forwards in the management and conservation of wild boar.  Up until now boar casualties have never been considered in the cull undertaken by the Forestry Commission, and neither has boar killed by poaching, legal shooting or moving out of the forest.

It has been a past criticism of the Forestry Commission that the failure to take account of boar disappearing by other means was promoted by the income stream that the FC are gaining from sale of boar meat.  It may  interest people that road casualties are not sold for meat.  So this is hopefully a sign of improvement in managing the boar.

Furthermore, boar sightings have been way down since last September when culling was resumed, but rather than worry about numbers of boar falling to unsustainable levels, the small degree of grass diggings lends support that the boar are in no danger of eradication, but certainly depleted in numbers as we come up to the main birthing season.

Since the cull began back in September, there has been an almost continual furore here about wild boar invading farms and villages.  Boar behaviour is such that they prefer to group together before leaving the safety of the Forest in search of new territory, so reports have tended to be of boar numbering up to 30 at a time.  This of course distorts public perception of boar numbers in the Forest.  Little do people realise that only a few groups of boar (2 or 3) leave the Forest each year, but when they do, they leave in largish numbers.  Nor do they always leave immediately and forever, but may go back to the Forest if they sense danger.



Farmland dug by several Wild Boar in October 2012. 
This farm borders the Forest of Dean and is evidence that wild boar do leave the Forest each year.

Friends of the Boar can corroborate some of the reports of boar in farmland.  These reports of course are firm evidence that boar do leave the Forest and should be taken into account in a scientifically defensible management plan.

What is slightly worrying to us is the huge increase in road casualties in just 4 months (October - January).  Research in the US indicates deer casualties rise during culling seasons due to panicking animals being pursued or shot at.  We cannot confirm this here because only a single closed season as occured.  We await further information to arrive at a reason for rises in road casualties. 

Other factors that increase road casualties may be orphaned piglets having no road sense.  This has been  previously blogged here, and may still be valid.  Other reasons may be when entire sounders with little piglets cross roads and casualties are numerous in single incidents with lorries for example, and even half-dissected carcasses being thrown from poachers' vehicles may also be considered.

In December 2012, Friends of the Boar received information and photographs of a boar shoot in the Forest of Dean.  Details are still being sought, and we cannot at the moment say if this shoot was legal or not and must assume that it was legal.  But we post the photos here for your perusal if only to highlight the entirely distasteful and disgusting way that some hunters see our wild boar as trophies to be propped up and teeth ripped out for its bragging value.

We appreciate these may be shocking images, but it is important that people know what is taking place in their public Forest and near their homes.  At the moment we do not believe people are informed enough about the shocking reality and image of boar hunting.



(Photographs of hunted male boar used under Fair Use doctrine for critique and discussion)

Anyone with comments please do leave them for all to see, or get in touch with us via e-mail which you can find in the side-bar under Contact.

Look out for the next posting, which will follow unusually quickly, so we can bring you up to date on what we have been doing to help local residents with boar rooting in gardens.

We also urgently need to tell you what has happened over Christmas regarding Friends of the Boar itself.  We may need your support more than ever if we are to continue.

We also want to present evidence about the genetic purity of wild boar here in the Forest of Dean.

Take Care everyone and come back very soon,


DJS

Monday, 26 November 2012

REJOICE THE FIRST CLOSED SEASON (- and ignore what you read in the press)

We have been very busy here at Friends of the Boar since culling was resumed.  We have felt it necessary to attempt to answer lots of queries and press articles that appear to be focused upon one topic only - BOAR DIGGINGS.

In the years leading up to the formation of Friends of the Boar, a few passionate wildlife enthusiasts and photographers who had first-hand experience of the boar were kept busy attempting to allay public fears of how dangerous the boar are.  The press, as always, were siding with the authoritarian view of the Forestry Commission, presenting stories of dog attacks as if they were commonplace, fretful of boar attacking children, and of boar numbers becoming so high there would be no space for humans.

Thankfully, after a lot of patience and education, not to mention the fact that maybe 50% of local residents have now experienced the boar at close quarters, these fears have faded.  People are now resentful at being duped with front page stories of hogzillas and the promoted image of the boar by the fake experts, namely the Forestry Commission.

Many locals seriously believed that boar looked something like the Looney Toons character "Taz the Tasmanian Devil", a muscular tusked hairy beast that delights in unprovoked frenzied charges at everything in his path!

"TAZ" is NOT a WILD BOAR!

Almost universally included within the press stories of boar diggings in the last month is the totally illogical connection that they are somehow correlated with boar numbers. 

Ian Harvey, head ranger of the local FC, as been quoted several times linking increasing levels of roadside verge activity to increasing numbers of boar (2009-2010).  At one point his conditioned mantra seemed to be the only census technique he was capable of....although some people would still say it is!

This is typical rhetoric of those who delight in hunting the boar.  Time and again we hear the same old nonsense from hunters, including the Forestry Commission, that boar have no predators and will over-run the place with a compounded trebling of numbers each year, and of course digging up everything in sight. 

Loaded language is almost second nature to these conditioned individuals, who no doubt got their lessons in ecology from their hunting daddies and mummies:  phrases like "rampaging boar", "devastation", "fury", "invasion", roll from their tongues at the slightest bit of grass damage found by residents.

Since the infamous release of boar in 2004, wildlife enthusiasts had been using the diggings to find the boar.  Noting their positions daily, using new diggings to start searches for the boar.  Roadsides have been continuously monitored as part of their hobby, and in some cases their professions.

They can confirm that road diggings are massively down compared to the last 3 years (2009), thanks to the closed-season.  Before that, boar numbers were so low (20-100) that road diggings were less conspicuous.

We have just had a YEAR-LONG closed season when no boar were hunted except a small number of road casualities.  The closed-season began in September 2011, and the following 2 months saw the usual road verge diggings taking place.



For the first time since 2007, little piglets have not been hunted or their mothers shot by the Forestry Commission.
 
 

Residents will hopefully remember the long stretches of roadside down the Cannop Valley, along the Speech House to New Fancy View road, and down into Parkend and onwards into Coleford being an almost continuous "dig".  Speech House road between Coleford and Cinderford, similarly had a lot of road diggings for all to see.  Picnic sites at Wenchford, Beechenhurst, Linear Park, Mallards Pike and Cannop had all been severely dug.

Remember - this was when the Forest had the Beechenhurst Six roaming about the centre of the Forest, a family of tame boar and piglets we have previously blogged about.  This family were digging at Beechenhurst and around Speech House for all to see, and it was the threat that the FC had announced they were to kill these boar that added to the protests and the decision to have a year-long stop on killing the boar.

Another sow with her family relaxing in the heart of the Forest of Dean.


So the bloodsport halted.  The FC were confident of uproar by the public (witnessed at a meeting between the Friends, Councillors and Kevin Stannard of the FC), and hunters began writing to the nationals warning of a Berlin style onslaught of boar raiding towns.

BUT NOTHING HAPPENED.

THE CLOSED SEASON was a resounding SUCCESS.  By the new year, roadside grass activity had almost completely disappeared.  The boar left the villages of Parkend and elsewhere.  An environment of peace and relaxation took over.  The boar moved back into the deeper parts of the Forest where high seats stood empty as reminders of the past. 

THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD BE.

The Forestry Commission were putting the population at 450 animals at the start of the closed-season (September 2011).  They predicted, that the population would TREBLE.  By September 2012 when they will resume culing, that means 1,350 boar will be here.

By contrast, we were claiming only 100 boar were present in the Forest of Dean at the start of the closed-season.  This met the usual tuts and sneers from those who think they know best.  We predicted the population would stabilise according to the studies from European boar that give densities of 3-4 boar per square km.  In terms of the Forest of Dean, this would equate to 180 - 240 boar provided no artificial feeding took place.

Censuses were done by both the FC and Friends of the Boar as previously outlined in this blog.  The FC census concluded a population as of August 30th 2012 at 600.  The Freinds census put it at 200.

NOW NOTEThe FC had just reduced the population from 1,350 to 600 (more than a halving)!  The Friends had increased the population from 100 to 200 (a doubling).

No shooting for full year!

ASK:  WHO HAS THE MATHS RIGHT?

What are we now seeing and hearing?   Well, the FC now suddenly begin claiming that boar numbers only double each year! 

REALLY!  Don't you mean a decrease of 56% per year, or are you just taking our figures now, hoping nobody notices?  This statement was provided both by Kevin Stannard in a recent press piece, and by Robin Gill, Forest research scientist at the Boar Scrutiny Meeting in August 2012 (also documented below on this blog).  Talk about changing goalposts, and in the face of their own contrary predictions!

We really feel sad to keep highlighting the apparent cluelessness and hypocricy of the local government here residing at the Forestry Commission in Bank House in Coleford, but we can only report honestly as this is our way (remember that we are not-for-profit).

On the ground we saw almost an ENTIRE YEAR of NO ROAD DIGGING.  From around January - August 2012, the roadsides were free of overturned soil.  The Cannop Valley, for the first time in 7 years, was free of soil.  Soudley, Parkend, Whitecroft, Ruardean, Sling, all villages traditionally dug, were now free of dirt!  Visitors to picnic sites would be hard pressed to find a single hoof print of a boar.

THE BOAR WERE NOW WHERE THEY BELONG - IN THE DEEPER PARTS OF THE FOREST.

Sightings collected by the Friends were showing conclusively that the boar poulation may have reached 400 in April, but had declined to 200 by August.  A 50% mortality seems to have occurred - all without the presence of wolves or guns!!!!   The Friends' estimates at the start of the closed season of 200 were vindicated, albeit by our own census (we understand how critics may ignore this).

But hunting resumed in the first week of September 2012.  Immediately a single boar came into Coleford town centre.  "Fury as Boar Run Amok in Town centre" was plastered everywhere by The Forester newspaper.  The loaded language had resumed by the press and hunting fraternity!

Boar came into villages almost overnight.  Sling and Ruardaen were hit, as was Soudley and Blakeney.  And what did we learn?

THE BOAR WERE NOW BEING HUNTED DEEP IN THE FOREST BY THE FORESTRY COMMISSION!

Oh yes, hunting at baited places in the remoter parts to make the cull easier!  Alternatively, some rangers feel free to shoot on-sight any boar they stumble across in broad daylight on public land, as they did near to Speech House that first week of the cull, much to the shock of a very fightened tourist nearby.  Thankfully, a Friends of the Boar supporter was there to help them return to their car, visibly shaken.

When challenged by the Friends in an open letter to Ian Harvey, the FC claimed (via the press) they do not kill nuisance boar by villages due to health and safety!  WOW, it's now ok to shoot in the daytime in the Forest near Speech House with many visitors nearby, but shooting near villages to help farmers and villagers is a no-no!

GO READ - the FC have  always said, including in their OWN Boar Management Strategy (see link to this on main page), that problem boar will be prioritised in any cull.

No mention in the press of how the FC had got their sums wrong.  No mention of how we had just witnessed a quiet year with regard to boar diggings.  ALL FORGOTTEN by those who wish to profit from the boar by either hunting or the selling of local newspapers. 

The Forester and especially The Review newspapers (both owned by Sir Ray Tindle of Tindle newspapers) delighted in presenting unrepresentative and very rare and localised stories of people upset at some digging by their houses or in their gardens, as though the Forest was entirley dug to bits!

The Forester and Review both published highly misleading stories and letters from anonymous writers, with editors getting in on the act in an attempt to dismiss and mock our efforts to promote truth and promotion of wildlife.  Letters sent by us were ignored or delayed by weeks to appear ineffective and random.  Press releases announcing our intentions to help those with diggings on private land were also ignored.  This would obviously negate the hatred these two Tindle newspapers were fostering, and so decided to ignore us on purpose.

Without any investigation into the truth or validity of their correspondence, these papers quoted residents saying that boar numbers were too high and out of control.  Anonymous opinions were published without question to fuel an agenda.  Not once did they ask us to comment.  Because if they did, this type of scaremongering and last ditch attempt at getting the public to support hunting would be a failure.  They have tried their very best to present UTTER RUBBISH in order to get people here angry.  To us the Forester and Review Newspapers have acted not only immorally and unfairly but maliciously towards the boar and to those who support them. 

We only hope they will apologise and make every attempt to tell the opposite view and also to present veryfiable facts about the boar.

One of these FACTS is that WE SHOULD REJOICE THE SUCCESS OF THE FIRST WILD BOAR CLOSED SEASON IN THE UK, for it alleviated ALL that people fear, from attacks upon dogs and people to roadside grass damage.

HOORAY THE BOAR!

Thank You Mrs Boar for your efforts to make the Forest of Dean and all UK woodland a pleasure to visit.

(Apologies if some of you sense frustration, but the fight to spread truth for wildlife is a hard one here in the Forest of Dean, with much zoophobia amongst residents and some entrenched habits of poaching and wanting the forest to look like a country park.  All with little reward. Please help out if you can by contacting us.)

For researchers who wish to investigate the substance of this article, with some press examples, please contact David Slater via this blog - go to contact.


Can we please urge all residents to submit sightings of the boar via our contact page (in the side panel).  The data we receive is strictly confidential and will never be seen by any hunters.

DJS

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

FORESTRY COMMISSION VETOES DEMOCRACY WITH INDEFENSIBLE ACTION

It is with regret that FotB have to announce that the Forestry Commission (FC) has once again ignored our estimation of boar numbers in the Forest of Dean, but have instead chosen to cull 100 animals between September 2012 and January 2013.  They unequivocally reject any debate, carrying out their own unfounded beliefs of what should be done.

Population?


We say 200 boar are present, they claim 600-650.  A cull of 100 in such a rapid way may be again disastrous with respect to the future existence of boar, their health, compensatory rebound effect and amenity grass damage.  We will no doubt return to the conditions of 2009 when we witnessed a huge spurt in piglet numbers, increasing numbers of tame boar and widespread overturning of road verges and picnic sites.

Methodology


For your information, the FC has used the same method as us in arriving at population estimates: the FC used just 3 rangers and an anonymous independent; we used over 100 local residents including naturalists and wildlife photographers. Both surveys were carried out over the summer.

The FC alleges 150 “sightings” this summer and plotted them on a map.  We were shown this map at the recent Boar Scrutiny Meeting (more later), and it clearly had many duplicate sightings of the same boar groups.  In fact, no other details of how these sightings were logged were given.  As far as we know, the FC logs fresh diggings to count as a sighting? Whatever, we just knew the FC would come up with some ridiculously high figure, because this is what they have always done to scare the public and justify bloodshed.

Boar Scrutiny Meeting to Decide Future Management


We learned of the FC estimate at the recent Boar Scrutiny Meeting.  This was chaired by Verderer Ian Standing in late August 2012, and was the result of a year-long effort to get a wider view of boar and their management officially heard, with a view to take any findings to the Council.  The Council are now to decide on a new limit to numbers of boar allowed to live in the Forest, and for the management process to be more transparent and democratically led (still to be done). 

The meeting involved two FC employees, Dr Martin Goulding of the British Wild Boar organisation, and Dr David J Slater of FotB (please contact via the side panel).  All other interested parties were declined a hearing at the last minute by Ian Standing.

The meeting concluded that boar numbers were unknown, and it was recommended to wait until the next census before making any decisions on a cull.  The FC, using inadequate explanations of why last year's thermal imaging census did not provide them with the number of boar they were expecting, could only offer a better standard of thermal imaging equipment for the year ahead! 

Dictatorship


So we are even more incensed at the news of a cull, because the FC was knee-jerk in dishonouring the recommendations of the meeting – it was not supportive of the cull they so desperately need / want.

And will they stop at 100?   The FC has pushed this year to increase the previous acceptable number of boar in the Forest of Dean from 90 to 400. This may seem like a victory and in one sense it is, but to reduce their 650 imaginary boars down to 400 means that up to 250 animals may die! 

This of course is more than FotB are claiming to exist!  It is now clear that the FC has called for an increase in the Forest population because they wish to argue that more boars will be born and therefore come under their gun sights.

Breach of Contract?


Coincidentally, this cull target would satisfy the legal agreements the FC has with meat dealers.  At least three contracts existed up to October 2011 that obligated the FC to provide each with 500kg of boar meat. 

Now, we know that the FC sells piglets directly due to direct admissions they gave us.  Since 2008 when the FC began to shoot boar, we know from the FC’s own figures that 77% of their cull has been piglets in the past.   So, a cull of 100 boar would comprise 77 piglets plus 23 adults at an average of 65kg each (a typical adult weight) - or 3 contracts of 500kg each (23 x 65kg = 1,500kg).

Too coincidental we think.

Institutional Arrogance

 

At the Council meeting last September (2011) when the FC agreed to stop culling for a year, the FC claimed that after their cull of 153 animals, 450 boar were still at large (hence their arrogance with the prediction of high number counts in their subsequent census).   So this amounted to an estimate of 650 animals for late 2011.

 

 

Red-Faced


The FC duly conducted a nighttime census programme in November and December (2011) to try and achieve a more accurate number of boar in the area. Using high-tech equipment such as infra red and thermal imaging scopes they were confident that they would prove there were hundreds of boar in the Forest of Dean. However, after two months of conducting these surveys with independent witness, including FotB, they shelved it. Why? Because they only found a tiny handful of boar and were left red-faced. The only excuse they gave was bracken got in the way – in the winter! Now correct us if we are wrong, but isn't this same equipment used by the Military and Police to catch terrorists and criminals?

Indefensible Reasoning for Cull


Their current number of 650 boar conclusively means that they claim the population of boar in the Forest has not increased since the last cull.  They also tell us that complaints are very much down, and everyone can see that grass damage has also been hugely decreased in the year that no killing took place (Sept 2011 – Sept 2012).  In other words, the situation has improved on all counts as a direct result of no culling for a year - just as FotB has persistently predicted. 

So why cull 100?  What possible reason can they have to kill animals that are receiving less and less complaints and are increasingly leaving the grass alone?

Real Population Dynamics


Here’s our population dynamic analysis:

FotB estimated at the meeting of Sept 2011 that there were approximately 100 boar present in the Forest of Dean – at the start of the year-long closed-season. (The FC claimed 450).

A sow gives birth to 6 young per-year on average (in the wild) and based on a figure of 100 animals with an optimistic 50 being sexually mature sows, we would get 400 animals by the following Spring.

However, piglet mortality is high, maybe 50% in some years, but taking an average of 4 young making it to adulthood per sow this gives us a total number of 300 boar for summer 2012.

At the end of each summer when all the piglets are now independent, there is always a migration of boar out of the Forest.  This is due to family groups breaking up to find new territory, and the number leaving the Forest is dictated by food supply and shelter.

Studies have long shown that at our latitude and climate, Forests will not support more than 4 boar per square kilometre, more usually 3.  At 60 square kilometres in aerial extent, our Forest will only support 180-240 boar.


 

Always the Minority that Spoils the Peace?


So this year, we expect around 100 boars to leave the Forest and wander onto private land around the Forest.  These boar are always those that get the bad press each year as they move into urban areas, promoting poaching and lawful killing by landowners.

We therefore predicted 200 wild boar would be in the Forest this Autumn and it is very gratifying when our census, where 100 or more people have been out and about sending us their sightings, also corroborates this number.

So as you hopefully agree, if the FC takes out 100 animals from the Forest over the next 4 months, we will be left with, at most 150.  And this is before anyone takes into account further natural deaths, poaching and RTA's.  Research indicates that boar populations need to be much higher than this to be sustainable and to eliminate the danger of inbreeding.

Petition


Friends of the Boar have set up an e-petition to stop this cull. It may be too late, as we had no warning of the cull, which is happening right now, but if we can show them that united, we are prepared to stand up for these remarkable animals it could prevent future culls, which have not been based on scientific estimations. To control wildlife numbers that have reached a point of concern can sometimes be deemed as wildlife conservation/management. However, to cull a species when its numbers cannot be proven and when there is no concern, it is murder!

Please help give our wild boars a reprieve by signing the petition today. Please also share this petition with other wildlife groups and on your Facebook/Twitter pages. Many thanks!

    

Poaching on the Increase


Since the news of the FC starting culling, and their exaggerated claims of 650 boar at large, it seems that the poachers and vigilante landowners are scurrying about the Forest and surrounding land with guns.  We have been made aware of several incidents of poaching and of boys with guns roaming the public highway at night.  Rest assured we give the Police as much information as possible whenever we are contacted by the rightfully alarmed public.

FotB were recently offered the lower jaw bone of a boar, which was found in the forest by a member of the public (sign up to our newsletter to see it). There are many reasons why this animal died in our forest and one may have been from natural causes. Other causes may be from a poacher’s poor shot, leaving the animal injured to die slowly in the forest. It may also have been injured in an RTA where it was able to make it back into the forest where again it died. Who knows how this animal perished, but this proves that these animals do indeed die in our forest and that culling should only be considered as a last resort.

Badger Cull


Finally, the plight of the wild boar and the peace of the Forest are to be shattered even further this Autumn and Winter by the Badger cull.

West Gloucestershire, including land around the Forest of Dean is part of a disgusting experiment by our government to see if farmers and employed marksmen can kill badgers at night.  This is obviously taken up at length in the mainstream press and by action groups such as Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting (GABS) and Brian May’s Team Badger.

What we are afraid of is that as the badger population is stressed beyond all reason they will obviously flee to the Forest as cover.  Injured and potentially unhealthy badgers will begin to disrupt badger territories within the Forest.  Any badgers with bTb (and these will be the badgers that survive the shooting – only the healthy badgers will roam about at night!) may begin to affect both the health of our existing badgers and the boar.  Obviously, the coincidence of killing boar and badgers could very easily lead to an extremely dark future for all our wildlife.

This is yet another coincidence of our government (the FC is a front organisation of DEFRA) acting in a totally indefensible and unscientific way that is truly detrimental to wildlife, and eventually to humans in due course.

Please give your support to halt the badger cull and to ask any landowners you know to say no to killing on their land.



The team would like to thank you all for your continued support for Friends of the Boar and for this remarkable animal.




Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Wild Boar Scrutiny Meeting - September 2012

So much has happened in the last week that the blog is finding it difficult to keep up.  Here is the word for word report of a crucial meeting regarding the future of the boar in the Forest of Dean.

We had all agreed not to mention the content of the meeting until released to the press.

Ian Standing (Verderer) asked 4 representatives to appear before him so that he could make a report based upon different viewpoints.  The report shall be taken to the Council for futher consideration.

It is already noted by Friends of the Boar that reference to a closed-season has been largely glossed over.  Friends of the Boar and Dr Martin Goulding both commented on the value of closed-seasons, that they should be from February to June, and that last year's year-long cessation from culling has brought many benefits to both boar and people.

Here is the final statement, released to the press last week:

Record of a Meeting on Forest of Dean feral wild boar. Held at Bank House Coleford,   Friday 24th August 2012.


Present
Dr Robin Gill  Vertebrate ecologist, FC Forest Research
Dr Martin Goulding British Wild Boar Organisation
Ian Harvey  FC Wildlife Manager, Forest of Dean
Scott Passmore Friends of the Boar (observer)
Dr David Slater Friends of the Boar
Ian Standing   Verderer, Forest of Dean; Chairman

Apology for absence:  Rob Ward was unable to attend and nominated David Slater in his place.  Rob also asked that Scott Passmore be present.  Scott was asked by the Chairman to act as an observer because attendance had been limited to those originally invited.
Outcome statement:  MG asked about reporting and media interest.  It was agreed that a draft record and statement will be circulated to all for consideration.  Any media requests to be deferred until the content of the record and statement were approved by everyone.

Update of Boar in Dean and adjacent areas


The Dean population is doing well and said to be thriving.  Migration has been recorded between the Chase Hill/Penyard and Dean groups.  There is also natural migration of animals from Dean into adjacent farmland and woods.  Boar are present on the Welsh side of the Wye and a new group has been reported near Leominster. The Penyard group appears to have contracted.

RG explained the methodology of thermal imaging and its application to animal abundance surveys. Although the boar are less easily picked up than deer due to their lower height and the intervening ground cover, distance sampling does provide sufficient data for scientific estimations to be made, subject to a confidence factor.   Thermal imaging does not produce an exact population number but successive surveys will indicate changes in populations. 

Thermal imaging research in Italy using radio collared, and marked wild boar demonstrated that thermal imaging and distance sampling was a reliable tool.  In the UK surveys so far made by thermal imaging will not have found all the animals in the Forest but those that are located can be used in statistical analysis to determine both estimated populations and population trends..  Better equipment is becoming available and a survey in the Dean Main Block is planned for this winter.

Other methods of assessing population size relied on reported sightings.  The Friends of the Wild Boar Website has enabled the public to register hundreds of sightings.  FC staff are in the woods daily and record their sightings on maps.   Different methods produce different estimates of the population.

Negative effects of wild boar include problem animals (usually created by feeding), dog walking and horse rider encounters, and a steady increase in traffic accidents.  Ecologically, wild boar may have an impact on small mammal populations.

The Public’s view of wild boar in the Dean


There is wide range of views and reaction among the public, some of it strongly polarised. Fear, damage to roadside verges, dog encounters, road accidents and boar damage to recreational grassland and farm land bring negative reactions.  This will increase if humans are injured by attack, or die in RTAs, although neither has happened.

Positive support comes from those who view the wild boar as a re-introduction of a former native wild animal.  Many others gain excitement and enjoyment from the presence of wild boar.  The Friends of Wild Boar Website receives hundreds of positive comments and requests for advice on where to see boar. The District Council features the animal as a tourism attraction.  There has been a decline in complaints reaching FC.

An unpublished survey of public reaction to wild boar was undertaken in 2009-10 by Dutton & Clayton of Worcester University. A summary is included in: Feral Wild Boar Management Plan Forest of Dean, 2011 to 2016. A further study is said to be planned for 2013.

Further education of the public is considered to be an important need, to reduce fear, to discourage feeding and to promote safe practice for dog walking.

The target population number for wild boar in Dean


Following an anonymous release in 2004 of up to 60 animals near Staunton, the population increased steadily.  This resulted in negative public reaction and the involvement of the District Council.   In early summer of 2009 the population was estimated to be 90; that number was adopted as the target population agreed between the District Council and FC.

The meeting noted that the Dean is the first substantial area of woodland in Britain used recreationally by the public to contain a sizeable number of boar.  It further examined the many factors, including animal densities, poaching, and emigration that affect the size of the population and the inherent difficulty of achieving a scientifically verifiable population figure.  Dean boar are not hunted but animals are known to be shot on adjacent lands..

The following observations / recommendations were made:


* Robin Gill’s research is welcomed and, if possible, should be further funded and fast tracked
* Maintaining a healthy boar population includes the need for prudent, humane control
* Doing nothing is not an option because reproductive capacity is very high. With sows producing 4 or more young each year, a 50% reduction by emigration or humane control is needed to maintain numbers at an appropriate level.
* The number of animals emigrating from Dean, or culled on private land and by poachers, is unknown.
* Regarding a proposed closed season between March and June. RG comments:  This subject was not discussed in sufficient depth in the meeting. While I agree it is important to  try to find ways of achieving humane control, the dates (and sexes) for any proposed closed season should be chosen carefully. I would advocate the collection and review of more evidence of  reproductive data before a decision is taken on a closed season, as well as discussion with stalkers who may be involved.
* The Forestry Commission propose raising the target population from an estimated 90 animals to 400. The majority of the group agreed that raising the target population is acceptable.  MG commented that he was not comfortable with adding numbers to the population on which to base any possible culling decisions because current numbers are based only on estimates or guesswork. Scientifically reliable numbers were needed.
*  Different sources offer different estimates of the population size.  Friends of the Boar estimate 200 for August 2012.  FC wildlife rangers estimate 500-600 for August 2012.
* Culling targets may need reconsidering while numbers become clearer.
*  Transparency and sensible use of the media are to be encouraged.
* Further education of the public will assist in keeping boar away from settlements and tourism venues.

On closing the meeting the Chairman thanked everyone for their very helpful and expert inputs.  He welcomed the positive nature of the discussion and hoped that it will continue.


PRESS RELEASE


On 24th August a meeting was held in Coleford to discuss the present situation relating to feral wild boar in the Forest of Dean.  It received contributions from expert mammal wildlife ecologists, members of the Forestry Commission and a representative of the Friends of the Wild Boar.  It was noted that following an anonymous release of up to 60 animals in 2004 near Staunton, the population had naturalised and numbers of boar had spread to all parts of the Forest.  This led the District Council after a period of consultation to recommend to the Forestry Commission and the Verderers to agree in 2009 that a population of 90 animals would be appropriate in the Forest of Dean.

Because the Forest of Dean is the first substantial area of woodland in Britain used recreationally by the public to experience a sizeable number of boar, research has been needed and is ongoing.  Determining the exact number of boar in the Forest has proved to be very difficult and to date management of the boar has of necessity been based on estimated numbers.  The meeting recognised the difficulty this imposes and it welcomed the new survey work planned for this winter.
  
Doing nothing in the long term is not an option.   There are no natural predators and the reproductive capacity of wild boar is very high. With sows producing 4 or more young each year, a 50% reduction by emigration or humane control is needed to maintain numbers at a stable level.

The Forestry Commission has recommended increasing the target population from 90 to 400 animals.  The majority of the group, agreed that the principle of raising the target population is acceptable, although one member commented that culling of the boar to target figures should only be considered once defendable, scientifically-derived population figures had been obtained.   No increased target population figure was universally agreed, in part due the population figures being estimates and not exact. Different sources offer estimates of the current population ranging from 200 to 600.
  
The meeting also favoured further education and information being made available on safety and on the importance of not feeding the boar.  When boar are fed they become attracted to tourist spots and local villages, and at risk from traffic and non humane intervention.


I. J. Standing, Chairman
26th August 2012.