Thursday, 24 November 2011


The blogspot has been quiet for a week or so now, but doesn't mean we've been doing nothing for the wild boar.  In fact November has been a very busy month for us, and we feel we have done quite a lot in hopefully securing a better future for the wild boar as well as getting some quite significant sectors of the community up to speed on the science and local politics surrounding the boar here in the Forest of Dean.

To keep this topic manageable, we want to give you all some information on the now well publicised census that the Forestry Commission have been undertaking.

Friends of the Boar met with Forestry officials in the first week of August to discuss with them directly our concerns with their proposed "Feral Wild Boar Management Plan 2011-2016".  Amongst other things, we outlined to them the dangers, both past and future, if the FC continued to cull wild boar without any clue as to the population.

Please note, that at this time the FC did not accept they did not know population numbers.  We knew they didn't know, but they had up until then successfully hidden this fact from the public, the media and most importantly from local Councillors from whom they had previously sought consent for their cull targets.  The FC were adamant they knew the population, but we nevertheless managed to get them to agree to a "wild boar census".  Not only that, but they also agreed for an independent observer to attend the census as suspicions were already too high as to the impartial nature of the FC towards the boar.

(It turns out that a "wild boar census" per se was never on the cards, but was to be part of the yearly deer census as an add-on observation - or just another column in the spreadsheet).

In order to keep up the pressure for the FC to keep their promise we contacted the Guardian newspaper about our concerns, and they wrote a good article about the FC's lack of knowledge on boar numbers.  The Guardian interviewed FC officials and from this the public were finally told the truth about the matter.

During our discussions, we discussed the last wild boar census the FC undertook.  They told us they used Thermal Imaging, but although they believed it works fine for deer, it was not so good for wild boar.  They had undertaken multiple transects at night during their yearly deer census (2-3 weeks long) and found that the boar numbers were far lower than expected.  We were surprised, and on pressuring the FC to give us a figure, they said approximately 30 boar had only been seen.  Since the FC had given assurances to the world that the population was 200 and rising (with figures as high as 700 even being quoted from Mr Stannard in the press), it could ONLY mean that the method didn't work (knowing the answer before the experiment is not science but dogma!)

We suggested they had just proven our contention that boar numbers are actually much lower, approximately 100, maybe as low as 50!  They disagreed, but they did agree to do another census, but it WOULD NOT be using Thermal Imaging but instead NIGHT-scoping using infra-red telescopes and high-powered lamps.

Their (poor) explanation of lack of boars found was due to vegetation.  For some reason, they believe wild boar hide behind thickets at night, whilst deer stand up and be counted!  This is despite the FC's explanation that low daytime sightings (used by many photographers as an argument to suggest low numbers) was due to the boar becoming active only at night!  Talk about contradicting yourself!

The idea that Thermal Imaging doesn't work was also backed up by another FC staff member during a personal communication, who claimed that one night a boar had a radio collar attached, so they knew its location just a few metres away, but the camera couldn't see it.

THIS YEAR'S census started on the Halloween night (31st October).  As before, it was the usual yearly deer census that was occuring but with any boar also being noted down.  This began AFTER the Autumnwatch piece (see previous posting) when we see the FC out with Michaela Strachan using Night-scoping on what the public were meant to believe was a genuine census night!  Caught out again Mr FC - faking a census, not to mention the baiting they used to draw some tame boars in front of the cameras.

The independent observer took part on the second transect, 3 days after the census began.  Each transect is 3 days apart, lasts 8 hours, and was to continue up until Christmas.  However, the method had reverted back to Thermal Imaging!  The observer confidently assures us that NOTHING could be missed, even IF vegetation was in the way (anyone see the news when Thermal Imaging was used to "see" the Bank protesters INSIDE their tents on the steps of St paul's cathedral?).  Indeed, the Thermal camera even found a tiny muntjac fawn, just days old, curled up in dense vegetation that night.

The observer saw no boar that night (6pm - 2am), and was told none were seen the previous night.  Friends of the Boar attended a meeting with the FC and Police on 22nd November to be told that no boar had yet been seen on the census (approximately 9 transects across 2/3rds of the Forest).  A police officer confirmed this because he was an independent observer on one of the last nights.

Question 1.  Do ALL the boar, who are now nocturnal according to the FC statement on the Autumnwatch article (go see for yourself - link to piece in a post below), hide perfectly behind what scant ground cover we have here (bracken, bramble and some low hung conifers), without a tail or nose poking out?  There are a few dense stands of bracken about granted, but are we really supposed to believe all 350 boar nervously run into these small and very fragmented areas of cover when the FC drives by?

Or could it be, that statistically, there are very few boar here?     IF there are 350 boar in the FoD as the FC contend (or 4 boar per square kilometre), then it seems statistcally unbelievable that none have been seen on several very long night-time surveys using state-of-the-art hardware.  If there are 50 boars, then it may be that the FC are just unlucky at finding some.

Question 2: Why did the FC change their minds about using Night-scoping, reverting back to Thermal Imaging when they already had reservations about that method?  Could this be because we showed them scientific evidence that Thermal Imaging DOES work and is vastly superior to Night-scoping (Focardi et al, Wildlife Society Bulletin, 2001 vol 29, pp133-139).

Are they seriously attempting to steer us all into thinking that nothing works so we have to revert back to their guesswork which will continue to promote the falacy that they need to keep increasing the hunting pressure (and financial incentives) each year?

Question 3:  Why, in both The Forester and Citizen newspapers today, does Ian Harvey state that this years' census is the first time they have used Thermal Imaging.......

"Forestry chiefs have admitted their wild boar census is showing there are far fewer animals than previously thought.  Chief wildlife ranger Ian Harvey said "We are not seeing the numbers we had anticipated.  But I'm fairly ambivalent about that because this is the first time we've approached this using this system".   The Citizen Nov 24th 2011.

Caught out yet again.  This is at least the second time this method has been used, so the FC MUST believe in it along with the scientists.  It works for deer, including tiny little ones about the size of a cat hidden motionless in vegetation.

It appears to us that the FC are persistent in attempting to decieve the public over numbers of boar to the extent they will ignore scientific sophistication to justify their own prejudice and are determined to carry on intensively hunting the boar FOR PROFIT until they are extinct or in such a stressed and diseased state that they will die off naturally.

"I think everyone is in agreement that we get an estimate but this method won't necessarily be the one we use in the future."    Ian Harvey, The Citizen Nov 24th 2011.

The FC are playing games with your mind as well as endangering the health of domestic animals and the farming community here by encouraging a disease outbreak and/or a mass exodus of boar out of the forest onto farmland and into towns.

The FC have allegedly stopped the census (so the papers quote) and will resume it in January when there is less vegetation.  This tells me that the only vegetation of concern to the FC is bracken and bramble, and not conifers.

Since the Thermal Imaging cameras they use is very sophisticated Military equipment, I must now reassure all terrorists around the world that they should cover their houses and caves over with bracken or sleep under a bramble bush if they want to remain invisible from the search helicopters and spy satellites of our 21st Century military superpowers.

Keep coming back to the blog, there is much more to report and we hope to bring it to you very shortly...


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