Tuesday, 18 October 2011

What to do in an Encounter with a Wild Boar

A wild boar encounter can get your heart racing. 

Even experienced boar watchers continue to feel some adrenaline when boars come close, not just because they are large and supposedly unpredictable, but to have a large native wild animal so close is without doubt one of the best wildlife experiences you are likely to have in the UK.

But to some people, their closeness creates intolerable anxiety.  For whatever reason this exists, here is a typical example of an encounter in the hope it will help to relieve the fear.

You will be walking along a track, hopefully paying some attention to the beauty around, when up in front you see some dark shapes moving slowly at the verge.  They never stay still, walking about slowly as though they are searching for something.

You squint to see if they are dogs or sheep, but you see a tail swish. It's about the size of a sheep, maybe a bit smaller.  You start to realise these are boar.

Your scent will soon give you away, for Wild Boar have an incredible sense of smell.  When they pick it up you will see their noses go up, sniffing the air to get a sense of your direction.  This is often close to the end of the encounter, so take your photos now!

At least one of the boars will become more active now, usually a juvenile, and will walk towards you, maybe a little nervous, sometimes turning round to return to the others.  The move towards you is for a better look, for they have very poor eyesight.  Others may soon join in.  It may take just a few seconds for this to happen.

Now, this is not aggression.  They are not ganging up on you, but are being brave and facing their potential threat.  They are like children now, excited and about to be proud of warning mum that they have spotted you.  Mum may now join in, sniffing you and deciding whether to walk or run away.   If she decides to run, she will belt out a loud grunt or snort, and turn tail.  At this moment, all the younger boar will also flee at high speed away from you.  It's all rush and noise, and you hear feet stampeding away.  That's usually it.

Mum may stop shortly afterwards and take another look at you, maybe even walk back towards you.  Again, this is not aggression.  She is saying to you, "You saw how fast we are so don't bother following."  She will either stay and start feeding again, or if you move towards her in the hope of a photo, she will grunt again and run.

You may have stumbled across a much tamer boar.  In this instance the boar may come very close.  However, small piglets who have not yet learnt from mum to fear humans, can also approach very close.

Sadly, thanks to some people who have fed the boar, this boar may walk straight at you in the hope of another handout.  If you don't want this, stand tall and shout at her.  Move towards her confidently but not aggressively, and she will probably move out of your way.  If she follows you don't panic but keep walking away - she will soon get fed up.  Just be confident, if she is tame she will not hurt you.

The fear of a boar attack has become legendary.  Try and remember where this fear came from and you will soon remember something you read in the press, or was it the story from a friend of their encounter?  How did their encounter end?  Like the above we bet.  Sadly, stories over the centuries from hunters have led to charicatures of charging boar with big tusks.  Woe on the hunter who was afraid of such a docile creature.  Better that he makes a story up of how fearsome the boar was, and how brave he was to kill it!

There are youtube videos of boar attacks.  Take a look at how aggressive humans are, but be warned, they are not nice videos.  Nearly all attacks are upon hunters who are cornering boar, or sending dogs to rip up the boar, or boar who have been pinned down by dogs and humans and are being stabbed with knives, or wounded by crossbows or an inadequate bullet.

Even in these terrible circumstances for the boar, the boar attack is very fast and is not a charge made from many metres away.  The boar are close to the aggressor, maybe just a second or two away.  Some videos show the result of the attack.  A male thrusts upwards from the ground leaving cuts to the legs of the hunter before dashing off.   This is the usual sort of video, as it is the males that hunters prefer.  But males are far more shy than females and it is a very rare incident for a male boar to attack a human, even a hunter.  Males do not stand their ground to attack.  But females may if their piglets are threatened.

A female bites you.  Her head doesn't lower. Instead, look for her shackles on the shoulders to rise and maybe her tail stand erect.  She will also growl.  If ever you see this sign, move away confidently, maybe reassuring her with soft words rather than screams or shouts.  You may sometimes hear a growl from scrub where she is hiding with her piglets.  If you ever hear growling in the scrub, don't wait to see her, go back immediately from where you came.

This is where dogs are a problem.  If the female is nervous, and the dog is growling, barking or pulling at the lead, she may instinctively feel provoked and go for the dog.

It is testament to the boar that no dog owner has ever been targeted along with their dog.  This should hopefully reassure us all that the boar mean no harm to well-meaning humans.  If you have a nervous or aggressive dog and you come across a boar, it is very wise that you leave the area as quietly and quickly as possible.  Again, a boar will not charge from hundreds of metres away, only from close quarters.



If boar come close, keep aggressive dogs on the lead.  Maybe let the more sensible dogs free so they can keep away.  Above all, don't panic.  They may pick-up on your fear and agitation.  Almost all boar will not attack a well-behaved dog.

If you are surprised by a boar coming out of the trees onto your path, you may feel it more appropriate to let the dog off the lead.  The boar has appeared because it has scented your dog and wants a closer look.  The dog is probably faster than the boar, and provided the dog does not attack, it will probably remain unscathed.  Only do this if,  1. you know your dog will not attack the boar, and 2. the boar is very close already with hackles raised showing agitation.  Otherwise, keep the dog on the lead and walk away quickly.

Finally, here is a video of a recent encounter in the Forest of Dean.  It is five juveniles who have obviously had their mother shot.  You can hear the girl getting excited and also very anxious.  This is very normal of a first close encounter.  These boar are quite unafraid (with mum dead they will have to learn about humans the hard way) and do not run away as quickly as most.  See how their noses and hackles go up.  Sadly, she suggests throwing them some food.  This is perhaps due to her conditioning of wanting to feed animals. [Edit: She has contacted FOTB to say she was worried the boar hadn't seen her or partner so she wanted to feed them to alert the boar to human presence and so stop them having a heart attack - see comments below.]  As you see though, boar rarely accept food.



Please don't feed the boar!  Just enjoy their company with excitement and a sense of privelege.  Very few animals in the UK are as intelligent as these.  They are learning to live with us very quickly.  Can you learn to live with them?  We hope so.

David J Slater

14 comments:

  1. Sorry that you singled us out as a threat to Boar welfare? That is very far from the case.

    We have good experience of Boar. My partner's comments on the audio-track were a nervous reaction to them coming so close.

    It was, I believe, unfair to embed our video, to illustrate your particular viewpoint about feeding them. We meant no harm. And this video has brought some delight to those unfamiliar with these wonderful Mammals.

    I rustled the bag to stop them coming closer. It is well known that Boar and domestic pigs are prone to potentially lethal results from extreme stress (ie. myocardial infarcts.) This would have possibly occured if they had come even closer, and suddenly realised we were right next to them.

    It would seem that perhaps you have made a strong, misguided judgement on our behalf? That is a shame. And a shame also that you should embed our video to highlight certain points about feeding Boar, and therefore misrepresenting us, and, especially, my partner in the process.

    As we all know, the internet is a public place. Defamatory comments can be viewed by all. But public reputations can also be damaged on both our parts.

    So, I publically ask you, nicely, please, either keep our video as a promotion for Boar in Britain, and ammend your prose in reference to it. Or remove it, and un-embed it. And no more will be said.

    Perhaps, an apology is also in order to my partner. She was very upset by your misrepresentation of her.

    And, in future? Please contact us if you wish to make such defamatory statements when using our footage.

    A shame really. As we seem both to be on the side of Sus scrofa...

    But hey! It's easy to forget real people are often involved on the net...:(

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dear Phil (?), I'm sorry you and your partner have interpreted the piece this way as it was meant to be educational by showing others a typical encounter (this is the title of the piece).

    I too will answer you in public.

    I was personally delighted with your video as I'm sure many others will be. As you have confirmed, you became anxious with the closeness of the encounter and this is what I could tell. However, your explanation above is not what I expected!

    I wanted to show how an encounter usually goes in order to dispel fear. Getting an adrenaline buzz can be enjoyable.

    Some people, sadly,interpret adrenaline as a bad experience because they have been led to believe boar are dangerous.

    Your video shows otherwise. It is not a cherry picked video to use as propaganda, but what I see as a very nice video that shows how an encounter usually goes - and ends - with the boar running away. I can also sense your partner's apprehension in it.

    With the feeding, I only posed the question of "perhaps" you wanted to feed them because this is often a natural reaction with some people who care for animals.

    At 3:33 the girl says firmly "give them some food".

    I accept this was "possibly" meant to save the boars from having a heart attack, but again, this is "perhaps" a natural reaction for some people and I hope to educate that this also is not what anyone should do.

    I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that boar are not as delicate a creature as you may think. Maybe domestic pigs are (I've limited experience with domestic animals), but these are true wild boar and will not suffer at the sight of humans.

    I will change the wording soon, but I sincerely hope you see now that I love your video and your enthusiasm for the boar. Of course I do not think you were maliciously threatening to the boar because you wanted to feed them. Feeding does not in itself kill them but what people don't realise is their capacity to learn that humans hand out food and this soon gets them in front of a gun.

    Finally, I know only too well that "real people" are involved in the issue of wild boar. This is the MAIN premise for this blog. People are complex creatures and I want to use the internet to talk to "real people" in a way that educates as well as sometimes shows just how passionate many people are about the boar.

    Please accept my apology for the misunderstanding, and I hope you will be happy to let the blog keep your video. Our comments may also add something positive to the article if only to highlight just how complex the boar debate is, and how complex "real people" are!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dear Phil (?), I forgot to ask you for your email so I may contact you in the future. Could you please email me (address is in Friends of the Boar - "About US" section), and I would obviously like to know if my reply is adequate.

    Regards,

    David J Slater

    ReplyDelete
  4. I am so scared of wild bore, but this helped a lot I jjst thought that they attack and kill u but now I know this I am much more confidant taking my sheep for a walk in the woods now thank u
    Kind reagards
    Lucy

    ReplyDelete
  5. The boar in the forest are 400 years too late, Our lifestyles and homes have changed in the large period of time without boar. They cause considerable damage and are a high safety risk to road users, Yes, the right approach to a boar when coming across one will cause very little distress, but it's all of the other negatives associated with this wild animal that people are concerned about. You cannot compare them to any other animal like deer etc. we've always had deer in Great Britain. Wild boar do not have natural predators, and their population is now out of control, I know how these animals breed, and there are far more roaming the forest etc than estimated by any 'organisation'.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Wild boar are destructive animals, Just drive through the Forest of Dean and take a look at the roadsides....in areas of France etc that are highly populated by boar, you will NOT see this kind of devastation...Too many in a small area.....And now I see there are Boar hunt Sabs...! These mindless idiots are obviously vegetarians from the town...What is happening to this country ? people need to be educated in these matters. Maybe these 'sabs' should be put in a pen with a sow and piglets, they'd soon change their minds... or maybe have a nice garden in the forest, or a crop field..?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Very useful article! Here in Spain boars are quite common, and rural people usually say that they are very dangerous, and that a female with piglets (baby boars?) will attack you just because, even if you don't bother her piglets. They also say that a wounded boar will ALWAYS attack any human in sight.

    I thought that was pure nonsense, and judging from this blog, it seems like I was right! Boars are very widespread and common in Spain. They are a very typical creature in the Mediterranean ecosystems. Yet, I have never heard of a boar attack!

    So yeah, boars being bloody and dangerous towards humans seems to be just a superstition and an urban legend... or a rural legend, I guess. Sadly, most of the information I found in Spanish on the Internet were unfunded repetitions of that lie, so I decided to search about this topic in English... and here I am! I guess you Brits can judge this animal more objectively, as it isn't as common in the UK and therefore its image is not as distorted.

    Greetings and thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I am glad to find this blog, as very recently I was in a French forest, climbing up through the trees over rocky terrain, and had just gazed over a valley. I turned back and suddenly saw a massive boar, with long thin white tusks pointing along its muzzle. It had come along the narrow path and looked surprised (as was I). I admired it but immediately I felt anxious, as though I was trespassing (I really thought it might charge at me). I quickly began climbing back up the steep rocky slope into the forest. My heart was thumping wildly and I didn't stop feeling afraid until I left the forest. It was in the Haute Loire. I judged "my" boar to be the size of a small cow (but my friend says this is ridiculous!) I wish I had a photo to prove its size and appearance as most of the ones online look scruffy and grotesquely ugly. This one looked in excellent condition!
    Now I feel very lucky to have come across one...

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi
    I have a steep, terraced olive grove which is being devastated by wild boar. It is a lot of work to rebuild my terraces only to be torn down again. Only last night I chased off a family of boar 10m from the house. Do you know of any natural repellents? For example I heard some people use chilli to deter elephants. Do you know anything that could help me?
    Nikki

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry for the late response Nikki, we ahve been busy trying to shoo a boar off that keeps visiting a garden here in the Forest of Dean!

      In this instance, a more secure fence was the answer and removal of apples from a neighbours garden.

      Time is usually the only answer. Boar seem to quickly get use to anything you put down to deter them. Washing-up liquid soaked into the grass sometimes works - but may affect the worms in the grass that the boar are after! Those ultrasonic cat repellents have also been known to work, but again we think the boar soon learn to ignore.

      The best deterrent of all is a good strong fence. A dog, also, would work.

      You wrote a month ago and we would be interested to hear how ling the boar stayed on your terraces.

      Where the terraces growing fruit of any sort? Fruit or anything fermenting will always be a big draw for boar.

      Best Wishes,

      Delete
  10. I live in the Alpujarras in Spain. I encounterd a wild female boar on a very steep narrow path while walking my dog, and cat. I spotted it about 15 feet away in the bushes. I started to walk back up the path, she turned and started to run towards me. I could not run as it was too steep, it got about 6 feet close, I panicked and pushed a large stone down the slope towards it and yelled and waved my arms about. My legs went to 'jelly' and I did not stop shaking for a few days! I have dreams about the encounter and I am now too afraid to walk my dog down the mountain now. There were hunters that day, and locals say it is unusual to see a boar so close, and they will run away. The female was on her own, no babies. Will I ever get over my fear?

    ReplyDelete
  11. hi are there any sounds that would scare a wild boar? If they are messing with crops could I trigger a sound using motion sensors to scare them away?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thank you for this. I live in a rural area, and very recently, 3 boar have escaped from a local farm. They are all large, fully grown adults. My friend who has a lurcher says they are as tall as the dog, so big. I haven't seen them. I was today out walking at dusk, when I realised that they were within about 20 metres of me. I couldn't see them as it was too dark in the woods, but I could hear them roaring and bellowing and tearing up the ground... my god when you are alone in a dark wood at night and can't see the animals that is a terrifying sound! I like what you say about remembering where your fear comes from. I knew a man who had half his hand bitten off by a domestic pig he had reared from birth when he suprised it. I also knew of a farmer who had mental health problems and didnt feed his pigs for several days, and then when he did, was met by many caged, hungry animals... not pretty! So I was terrified. I feel much, much better having read this article. We live on the only local farm that doesnt allow any hunting, and we wanted to give these boar their fair chance at freedom... However, I was so scared at that moment I wanted them gone. I feel safe going out at night now... though I will remain cautious till I've met them in daylight!!!! It is interesting... I am a specialist in European fairy tales and mythology... so much stuff about not wandering from the pathway... dark woods, night time, alone, a roaring, bellowing animal you can't see... the fear is in our evolution.

    ReplyDelete