Wednesday, 26 September 2012


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.


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.


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! 


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.




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.


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.

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.


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.