Up to half a million wild boar currently exist in Spain causing increasing problems for many golf clubs
Leaving home just before six o’clock in the morning to catch an early plane, the last delay we expected to encounter was a sounder of wild boar in the driveway. Shutting down the car engine we watched, fascinated at the scene. A huge female of around one hundred and fifty kilos with four piglets. It was a small family as they are fecund animals and can have as many as ten young. The sight of those razor sharp teeth showed this was no time to disturb her, especially as boar are fiercely protective of their offspring. Wildlife is better left in peace. After five minutes they trotted away. They must have caught our scent but they have very poor eyesight. As they glided over the barren land it made me think how heavily built men often make fantastic dancers.
I mentioned the sighting to someone a few days later and his reaction amazed me. He offered to come and shoot them. No way! It reminded me of a comment by wildlife television presenter Bill Oddie “What man is scared of, he tends to destroy”.
The wild boar is indigenous to Western Europe and North Africa and is the ancestor of the domestic pig. I first spotted one in the Lucee Forest near Hamburg some years ago and that one had enormous tusks of around twenty five centimetres. The top tusks are hollow and act as whetstones to the lower tusks which are razor sharp. The females have shorter tusks which they use to establish dominance of the nursery where they are protecting their piglets. Wild boar are mainly vegetarian but are classified as omnivores as they do take rodents and lizards into their diet. They adore acorns and devour them with a loud crunching noise and walkers in a woodland are sometmes surprised by this noise.
Here in Spain, wild boar were once hunted ruthlessly by Renaissance noblemen with packs of dogs. Now they live peacefully and in abundance in the Doñana National park and the Palacio, once the hunting lodge of the Duke of Medina Sidonia. This Palacio was where banquets had the main dish as boar’s head. It is now a wildlife research station. How times change … and in this case for the better.
You can find boar anywhere in open land in Spain and it is estimated that they number around half a million. Due to the decline of predators such as wolves and lynx the numbers are increasing much to the consternation of many golf clubs as they do tend to damage with their ability to root up the turf. Spain has a relatively low density of human population compared with UK so there is plenty of room for them. It is a pity they do not keep to the open countryside but as more and more land is developed for housing estates and leisure pursuits they do invade what we seem to regard as “ours”. They are fecund animals and need room for their families and their search for food. They are big eaters.
One place where you can spot wild boar in abundance is just half an hour’s drive across the Portuguese border. Near Bragança is an unspoilt sparsely inhabited area called the Montesinho National Park where the boars roam freely, rooting around in the woodland.
Wild boar are fascinating creatures and greatly enrich our countryside. On a note of caution, I advise you not to approach them and keep your pets and your children under strict control within the car. They are wild animals and at times can be aggressive.