Wednesday, 18 January 2012

CLOSED-SEASON INTRODUCED AS AN EXPERIMENT

We are pleased to let everyone know that 2012 is going to be a good year for the wild boar here in the Forest of Dean.

A meeting on January 17th 2012 between the Forest of Dean District Council, the Forestry Commission, and Friends of the Boar led to a groundbreaking agreement that there will effectively be a closed season on wild boar culling in 2012.

We are obviously delighted with this outcome and give full credit to Kevin Stannard of the Forestry Commission, who proposed the move after much reasoned and friendly debate.

His decision to give a closed-season an experimental go is despite his recently adopted Boar Management Plan for 2012, and agreed to by the Verderers, to actually increase the cull target for 2012.  It is the Forestry Commission's firm opinion there are now 400-450 wild boar present as of 17th January 2012, even despite a recent cull of 153 boars!

Culling will now commence in September, giving the wild boar and their piglets every opportunity to prove to us all this summer that they are a welcome addition to this forest.

The main reasons for this trial are:

Uncertainties about wild boar population numbers;
Uncertainties with regard to the dangers of compensatory rebound effect;
Increased public acceptance over the last year, thanks largely to the celebrity black sow and her six piglets (now called the Cinderford Six - would be Seven but one was shot in Autumn 2011);
Costs of boar management.

For this trial to work in favour of the wild boar, Friends of the Boar hope for the following:

The public will become more educated about the behaviour and ecology of wild boar;
The public and also the Forestry Commission cease feeding the boar (as this promotes unnatural breeding success as well as unwelcome tameness and an increased traffic hazard).  Please all help to persuade anyone who feeds the boar to stop and help in this experiment.

The former hope is being promoted by the Council, who hope to engage in an education campaign as well as formulating a community task force aimed solely at wild boar and the community.

What is uncertain is the effect of the culling throughout the previous year or two.  If our worst suspicions come true (already publicly presented in the press and on this blog regarding a prediction of an unnatural excess of piglets in 2012 created by compensatory rebound effect, and increased number of tame boar as a byproduct), then this year is going to be a rough ride for all concerned.  When an animals' population has been distorted as we fear, it may take longer than one season for it to return to a natural state.

We therefore hope that the change in culling being switched to a September onwards one, will help to bring about the natural state more quickly.  Killing sows and piglets in the Spring and Summer, we believe, leads to serious problems with population dynamics as well as disease potential.  It may require more than one season....

Scientific studies have shown that culling in the autumn and winter creates a more healthy and sustainable population - and a major reason why there is a closed-seasons for all other game species - it is not just about animal welfare and the shocking thoughts about piglets being harmed. 

We have not taken kindly to press articles claiming we are calling for a closed-season to help the population "flourish"! 

A closed-season should hopefully alleviate a "flourishing" of numbers (given time and the bravery of the community in supporting this change of management strategy), at the same time as bringing less stress and greater health to the boar that survive.  This is sound and sustainable game management.

Now if this isn't enough to say cheers to the Forestry Commission, Kevin Stannard is also hoping to co-ordinate a locally-based  Symposium of lectures involving wild boar researchers and the community (including Friends of the Boar we assume).  We hope this to take place in September, just prior to the cull-season.  This is a huge opportunity for all to get more informed about wild boar and hear opinions and scientific findings from both sides of the debate (well, there are more than 2 sides to this debate actually!)  The Council are kindly hoping to help fund the cost of this Symposium.

What makes this all particularly special is the fact that Wild Boar are not just another animal, even though it may appear as such by the general public.  For more than 500 years, hunters as well as conservationists have been saddened by the loss of many of our ancient and indigenous forest animals.  With increasing environmental awareness over recent decades, the missing species have weighed heavily and sadly upon our psyche.  In more recent times there has been huge hopes in the re-introduction of some of these controversial creatures, beginning with beaver which has been realised in a small area of Scotland. 

Most people know of the desires of conservationists to re-introduce wolves, but hopes also lie with lynx, elk, auroch (or wild cow), pine marten and wild boar.  They are all controversial in their own ways and it has never really been seen as a project with any real hopes of fruition. 

The "accidental"  reintroduction of wild boar into the UK over the last 20 years has been a joy to observe by many, a re-introduction that had already been hotly debated with fears of public outcry, or of huge cash injections required to monitor etc.

Wild Boar have done the job all by themselves, and despite the cultural hang-ups over these animals, traditionally symbolised as aggressive and a great hunting prize, we have witnessed a more amicable and useful side to these animals.  They have in effect dispelled all by themselves the fear and propaganda that has for far too long be aimed at them.  If only we can train people to see boar diggings as a healthy sign of wildlife presence and a working, real-time process of engineering our forest back into a healthy more natural state full of flowers, ferns and food for insects, with less bracken!

Conservationists, wildlife enthusiasts, hunters, farmers and politicians from across the UK and even Europe, will soon be focusing their attentions, hopes as well as some fears upon the Forest of Dean this year. 

This is a truly special place.

Attendees of the meeting:
Kevin Stannard, Deputy Surveyor, Forestry Commission;
David Slater, Friends of the Boar;
Terry Hale, Councillor, Forest of Dean District Council;
Diana Edwards, Councillor, Forest of Dean District Council;
Martin Quaile, Councillor, Forest of Dean District Council;
Alistair Chapman, Forest of Dean Council Environment Group.

7 comments:

  1. Good for the Boar and great for us humans.

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  2. Although this is fantastic news for the boars. Experimental is another word for trial, so I hope that Kevin Stannard will follow through with his kind proposals and make this closed season manditory every year, to protect the adult and juvenile boars while they are at their most vulnerable.
    This is a massive step forward and I welcome all proposals put forward.
    Many thanks to all who have supported this cause.

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  3. This sounds like a sane decision, and I will be interested to see how the idea of a community task force develops

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  4. The Boar have as much right to be here as we if not more. If we leave them alone and keep dogs away from them they will more than likely leave us alone. By rooting around they bring dormant plants to life.

    There should be a 12 month of the year closed season every year

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  5. Great to see the Boar gaining acceptance. I look forward to the day when we have them here in the New Forest. They will need management though, folks are going to have to get used to that idea.

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  6. Are you all mad? Do predators give their prey the Summer off for humane reasons? Will the Boar without legal culling, not just be targeted by increased poaching activities? Without being culled will the boar just increase unchecked and become tame around humans, like the Grey Squirrel population in the Dean? If the boar are not already at carrying capacity, their productivity will remain high, until all available suitable habitat is in use. At this point the population will level out and productivity will decline. This is fine, if the Dean was an island, but it is surrounded by the rest of the UK. This country has not the wild space for the boar to become widespread and common. The Dean and other large forest areas may be able to hold small, sustainable populations. But it is unfair on the rest of the country to be forced to live with this species outside of these areas. We only need to look at the wildboar issues in Europe's urban environments, to see that we are not fit to have a countrywide population of boar again.

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  7. Thanks for all your comments folks. We shall put up a new post soon explaining a little more about how we see boars living alongside humans in the Forest, and hopefully answer Forest Imp's natural concerns.

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