Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Welcome to Friends of the Boar

Just a quick welcome to any new visitors to this site.  If you are a genuine friend of the boar or not, please read the posts below and let us have your comments and experiences of the boar. 

If you are not a friend please don't worry about leaving a comment.   We don't just want to "preach to the converted".  We hope we can change your mind, but we want to learn from you too.

We ask for your moral support only.  Please send an email, found in the About Us section, so we can add you to our list.  We occasionally send out circulars to keep you informed of events and boar news.

Please also consider signing the petition to HM Government to introduce a closed hunting season on the boar.  This can be found at the side under "Boaring Links" as well as in the main blog.  This is crucial if we are to control boar numbers so they have a secure and welcome home in the Forest of Dean and elsewhere, and also to include some welfare in their management.

If this is succesful, it will give our beautiful forests, not just in the Forest of Dean but elsewhere in the UK that supports wild boar, a much needed reprieve from death and suffering occuring around us so we can all together benefit from the healing space the Forest provides for our spiritual and mental well-being.

Many Thanks.

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

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

AUTUMNWATCH - The Verdict

As ever, as followers of Autumnwatch and Springwatch will know, last week's airing was the usual rich tapestry of information, unusual wildlife encounters, and fun.  The addition of Michaela Strachan was nice to see, who added a touch of innocence (but thankfully not childish enthusiasm) to the programme.

We eagerly awaited the wild boar piece, and after having seen it were left with the mixed feelings of relief, but also of continued frustration.

The relief was mainly thanks to the BBC not letting the Forestry Commission turn the piece into their usual public relations exercise, nor letting the Forestry Commission recite all of their usual fearful statements such as them trying to protect us all from exploding populations, dog attacks, human attacks, road accidents and perceived "damage" to grass.  The Forestry Commission should be thankful for this too, because the nation would have soon realised that their culling is pre-emptive of adverse contact, and that no evidence of any unprovoked attacks on people or dogs as ever been proven.

But despite the programme claiming the wild boar are highly controversial, they did not say much about why, just leaving the viewer dangling with a lack of information, especially balanced information (ie about how many dogs are attacking boar and public perception of grass "damage").  Sure, we were delighted to hear Chris Packham claim the ecological advantages, Martin to be against killing piglets, and to question if we as a nation have become zoophobic (obviously based on George Monbiot's blog in the Guardian - see an earlier blog on here), but this is where the programme placed it's limits.

In the interview between Michaela and Ian Harvey, the FC's head ranger in the Forest of Dean, we heard him claim that management of the boar is to keep garden's safe!  Now we know too that he will feel agrieved that this is the main reason put forwards for management!  The only other thing of note he said was that there was no attempt to exterminate the wild boar.  [But of course not - the FC have contracts to fulfil with boar meat - and this is where differing interpretations of "management" may lay, not one of people versus boar, nor one of ecology versus timber, but of a sustainable "harvest".  If it was for our sake or the forest, the FC would be communicating with us regularly and working with us on a solution.  But they do not. Why?]

But Ian was wrong to claim this is the first attempt at a census.  The FC undertook one in 2009 using thermal imaging cameras.  They didn't find enough boar to fit their own belief of a high population, so disregarded the result.  In fact, the result proved that boar numbers were low!

Similarly, the contrary piece with Alastair Fraser and Michaela had a very flimsy response of boar numbers simply being lower than in the past.  But it was a true and useful statement that no-one knows the population of boar, including the FC despite their own protestations (until very recently).

Editing of both sides of the debate was ruthless and seemed to avoid almost any of the ongoing contentions here, for which we for sure are perplexed by.

In the filming of the boar at night we were watching three tame boar (we recognised those boar) munching on what could be acorns.  But it could have been baited maize too?  Notice that the daylight film of the boar had them mooching up the soil, not eating acorns! 

video
Three boars filmed at a wallow by FOTB in readyness for Autumnwatch arriving.  Recognise them?  Note the pale faced one.  Not striclty nocturnal are they?  What are they eating here - well it's not acorns - it's peanuts.  Compare this to the Autumnwatch night census scene.

Friends of the Boar were eventually asked to find for the film crew truly wild boar displaying natural behaviour.  A strange request considering a family or two of tame ones are doing the circuit at the moment!  But we rose to the challenge but it proved as usual, impossible given the low numbers of boar left.  So why was the BBC ok to film tame boar with the FC - and at night - when these boar could have been filmed during daylight?  This led to the suggestion on piece the boar are mainly nocturnal.  Not so.  It also suggested the boar are no longer tame (like they were when first escaped), even though they were filming tame boar at very close quarters. All very contradictory as usual when we hear the FC talking about boar.

Of course, it all could have been edited to detract poachers.  If so, and we agree this should have been a forethought, it failed.  It failed because it still led to the belief that there are an unknown, possibly high, number of boar here.  The fact that boar numbers are "possibly" low was not allowed, even though this is our major assertion.

All in all, we were glad to be mentioned by Autumnwatch, and we are thrilled to see so much response in the follow-up forum.  Hopefully, through more programmes such as Autumnwatch, the public will eventually become better educated with the debate, and with this, may be allowed to progress to the details.  This is the same with all the other controversial re-introductions of our long-disappeared species such as wolves, beavers and sea-eagles, for example.

Here is the Autumnwatch blog / forum for you to give your opinion on the Big Boar Debate (despite the debate never having been discussed on air):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/natureuk/2011/10/the-big-debate-wild-boars-in-t.shtml

Click here to watch the programme - the wild boar piece starts at 26.20 minutes in...and lasts for 7 minutes.

DJS

Thursday, 6 October 2011

AUTUMNWATCH

The popular BBC series Autumnwatch have been talking to Friends of the Boar over the last weekend, along with the Forestry Commission, to cover some of the debate about the boar.  Friends of the Boar helped to show the fim crew around.

We have no idea how the BBC will edit the piece, but we urge you all to watch it tomorrow (Friday) on BBC2 at 8.30pm.  It should be good.

We know it will show how a census is being done, and has interviewed Alastair Fraser who supports our claim that the boar numbers are very low through overculling and an unknown element of poaching.

Despite pre-filming talks between the BBC and Friends of the Boar, we feel that their promise to talk about issues of killing piglets and sows with young will not be aired "due to political reasons" (quote). 

We predict the following based on the fact that the BBC suddenly didn't want to ask questions of how we know numbers of boar are low, nor any questions concerning the cull data that PROVES the FC are killing piglets and juveniles and that the average weight (age) of boar is falling drastically.  Maybe the presenters will talk about this on-air?

We suspect the program will allow the Forestry Commission to decieve the public with half-truths on boar numbers. We know that the FC persist in the deceit that the current cull of 139 boar this year proves there must be many boar in the forest (vastly more than we claim), and without continued and increasing culling the "problem" of over-population will only get worse.

We suspect the Forestry Commission will not explain how overculling promotes breeding spurts due to compensatory rebound, nor will they explain that 50% of all boar culled are juveniles.  They will not explain that the cull so far achieved does not represent a snapshot of numbers, but a result of continual killing and rebound breeding in response.  This is why the boar need a closed season.  A closed season will prevent an over-population of boar and susceptibility to disease.  The FC's reluctance to follow a closed season is possibly a reluctance to allow boar numbers to drop - do they simply want to keep the culling high, the meat traders happy and the balance sheet improving?

We are sure they will continue to spread the popular myth that boar breed all year round and therefore a closed season is not "practical".  They will not explain that boar ONLY breed all year round due solely to the constant killing of piglets and juveniles that bring adult females straight back into oestrus.  They will not explain that constant year-round culling is unatural and unhealthy for the boar population.

Indeed, if asked, we expect the Forestry Commission to deny they kill piglets and juveniles at all!  This is their policy statement and are their orders from Defra.

We would like to remind Autumnwatch and people reading this of Kevin Stannard's (Deputy Surveyor) admission that killing piglets is necessary and ongoing in order to achieve his own arbitrary cull target based upon nothing but sticking a wet finger in the breeze.  And culling of piglets is becoming necessary because this is the dominant age group left within the boar population thanks to over-culling and non-selective numbers-based "management"!

Please click on image to read text


We would also like to draw attention to todays revelation about the way in which some Forestry Commission rangers have a deplorable attitude to the public who appreciate and adore the boar, the way they have a willful neglect of public safety, their willingness to scare the public, their willingness to display weapons in public, and also continue to pursue the celebrity Black Sow and piglets with the intention of an easy kill.

All this is despite personal assurances to Friends of the Boar that the harmless Black Sow and her piglets will no longer be targeted.  Of course, this assurance was before Autumnwatch came to film the Forestry Commission as "managers" of our wild animals.


Forester Newspaper 6th October 2011:
EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF THE FC INTENTION
TO KILL PIGLETS AND A TAME BLACK SOW

We will update this with an analysis of the show after it is aired tomorrow.  Watch this space as they say!

DJS

Three Massive Wild Boars Run Away From Dogs!

I thought I had read and heard it all where the wild boars are concerned. "Scaremongering that is", until I read the following letter sent into a local newspaper from "anonymous."

______________________________

I WAS taking my dogs for a walk over to the wood by Pillowell Recreation Ground. When I arrived there I looked around and faced my worst nightmare as three massive boar had come out of the wood and were in the middle of the ground in among my dogs.
I screamed and called by dogs to me. We were very lucky as the boar ran back into the wood. I was so scared that I went back home.
I’m surrounded by woods but I am afraid to go into any of them now. The boar have taken over, though this was the first time I have seen them at Pillowell Recreation Ground.
But they have arrived, as you can see by the mess on the side of the road from Whitecroft to Lydney where they have dug up the edges.
We must have a cull. The Forestry Commission could make some money by selling boar meat.
It’s gone on for far too long now. Someone has to stop the boar. Please, round them up. The boar have taken over the Forest. It’s no longer safe to walk in our woods.
_____________________________

Now lets break this down...

I WAS taking my dogs for a walk over to the wood by Pillowell Recreation Ground. When I arrived there I looked around and faced my worst nightmare as three massive boar had come out of the wood and were in the middle of the ground in among my dogs.
I screamed and called by dogs to me. We were very lucky as the boar ran back into the wood. I was so scared that I went back home.

Firstly, you say that you faced your worst nightmare. This tells me that you already have a great fear of this animal. I wonder where this fear comes from? Maybe from reading articles or having conversations where the wild boar are being demonised.
Wild boar do not attack dogs unless provoked and although I admit that the sight of three boars around your dogs must have been daunting, your dogs obviously did nothing to provoke them, which means they were under control and returned to you when called back. And lets not forget the fact that it was the boars that ran away.



I’m surrounded by woods but I am afraid to go into any of them now. The boar have taken over, though this was the first time I have seen them at Pillowell Recreation Ground.

The boars have not taken over the forest. They are free living wild animals that have a territory, just like our deer. The fact is that as soon as this "small" sounder moves on, the chances that you will see another one in daylight hours will be very slim. There is no need to be scared of this animal.


But they have arrived, as you can see by the mess on the side of the road from Whitecroft to Lydney where they have dug up the edges.

Mess? I have a different view on what you call mess. Exposed dirt at the roadside and deep in the forest is just that; DIRT!
These rootings expose insects and grubs and many times I have seen small woodland birds taking advantage of this as they follow the boars around; especially in winter.
I have also seen orchids growing from the exposed soil, where the boars have again exposed dormant seeds in the ground.
What I call mess is a Saturday night / Sunday morning around our towns. Litter, including old tyres in the ditches that run parallel to our roads. Old discarded fencing strewn around our forest. Big ruts along foot paths where FC and Contractor vehicles have ploughed through.
Out of sight, out of mind?



We must have a cull. The Forestry Commission could make some money by selling boar meat.

Erm... They are being culled and the FC is making money from the carcasses and have been for a very long time.


It’s gone on for far too long now. Someone has to stop the boar. Please, round them up. The boar have taken over the Forest. It’s no longer safe to walk in our woods.

This is scary. You obviously hate these animals with a passion! I just hope that one day we, as a human race are not looked on in the same light. Look at what devestation we have caused this planet. Just walk into your back garden and take a look around. I would be surprised if there wasn't some exposed dirt out there. Ok for us to do it though, right!

1. Who has to stop the boar? They are a living wild animal that didn't ask to be dumped in the forest. And how would you stop them, shoot them all? Would you be happy then; after they have been eradicated from our forests just so you can walk your dog?
2. Round them up? You obviously have no understanding of the wild boar at all and this is why you hate them so much.
3. As mentioned earlier, they have not taken over the forest. It is safe to walk there and always will be.

Original article here...
http://www.forest-and-wye-today.co.uk/Letters.cfm?id=36715&headline=Not safe in the woods