Wild boar, potbellied pigs and 'cerdolíes' (the name given in Spanish to a cross between the two) have become a common sight in many residential areas on the Costa del Sol, especially in Mijas, Marbella and Benahavís.
The abundance of food (in rubbish bins, and some people feed them) and easily accessible water in parks, combined with a lack of measures to control them and no natural predators, have contributed to the considerable increase in numbers.
While some local residents like to see them, others are not happy and regularly complain to their local town halls because they are afraid of being attacked in the parks or that the animals will cause traffic accidents.
In Mijas, which is most affected, videos and photos are regularly posted on social media showing the animals on a road or close to school entrances at the start of the day. Through the UPLBA union, we spoke to a Local Police officer who has already reported the situation.
"We see boars and pigs nearly every day," he said, and confirmed that numerous people have phoned the police, especially to report sightings in La Cala de Mijas, Avenida del Limonar and La Noria. In fact, one call was from parents of pupils at El Chaparral school, informing that the animals were close to the school gates when the children arrived.
"There are a lot of them and they pose a danger, especially because of the risk of traffic accidents on the road between Mijas and Fuengirola and in Cerros del Águila," he said.
The officer said part of the problem is that some residents of different nationalities put food out for the animals, which makes the situation worse. "These are wild animals but until something untoward happens, nobody is going to do anything about the problem. Something ought to be done. We have spoken to our superior officers, but nothing has changed so far," he explained.
Up to five caught in one day
In Marbella, wild boar and pigs moved into the centre of the town during the months of lockdown, and things have hardly changed since. So far this year the council has captured around 50 of these animals, sometimes four or five of them in one day. They live in the hills and when the sun sets they come down to the residential estates to look for food, normally in groups.
Marbella council is hoping the Junta de Andalucía will send experts in archery to hunt the animals in the central urban areas, as they did before, but until then they are trying to deal with the problem on their own.
They put food in cages to tempt the boar inside so they can trap them, but on several occasions the animals have been so big that they didn't fit in the cage. This system is mainly being used in the hills behind the town, such as Bello Horizonte, Xarblanca, Puerto Rico, Lomas del Pozuelo and Elviria, where wild boar can be seen practically every day.
Even though this year these animals have caused traffic accidents, some people are against the idea of them being caught and there have been cases where the cages have been broken in order to free the animals. Sometimes, the cages are removed. Council workers periodically have to replace signs warning people not to feed the boars and pigs, because these have also been damaged.
Using archers for control
At the beginning of this year, the Junta de Andalucía authorised the Servicio de Controladores con Arco de Especies Silvestres (SCAES), which controls numbers of wild animals by shooting them with bows and arrows, as the only group permitted to hunt those that cause problems in urban areas. So far about 60 animals have been killed in this way in particularly problematic areas and their meat, when it was suitable for consumption, has been donated to soup kitchens.
However, this team is currently inactive because it is waiting for a report from the central government office in Malaga, which has been requested by the Guardia Civil, explained Daniel González, the head of SCAES.
"We are receiving numerous requests for help from places like Marbella, Mijas and Benahavís, but we can't do anything until we have all the documentation and permits we need," he said.
A spokesperson at the government office said that the report it is preparing for the Guardia Civil will lead to a resolution which will determine whether or not it is possible to control the wild boar and pigs in this way and, if so, under what conditions.