THE WILD BOAR MEETING REPORT - notes and pictures

 

The Duke of Gloucester's Standard showing a white boar

Wild Boar – welcome back?

7th December 2005 at Nature in Art, Wallsworth Hall, nr Gloucester

"Many thanks for yesterday - It was one of the best one day seminars/conferences I have been to for a long time. A great mix of different people with different perspectives all bouncing ideas off one another in a constructive and amenable way."
Wildlife Trust Officer

This workshop, hosted by WN and BANC, was held to discuss management of the growing wild boar population. It was prompted by the Defra review launched in September of the way wild boar are managed and monitored. Since becoming extinct in Britain over 300 years ago, wild boar have established several small populations in England following escapes from captivity, and which are expected to grow. There are thought to be fewer than 500 feral wild boar in England, with the main population in Kent and Sussex and smaller breeding populations in Dorset and Herefordshire.

The day set out to explore and discuss a range of issues:

  1. Wild boar biology, behaviour, and disease concerns.

  2. Farming issues and farmers' experience with wild boar.

  3. Wild boar, countryside access, and walkers’ safety and responsibilities

  4. Nature conservation and woodland management issues.

  5. The wild boar economy - food, game, hunting and visitor income.

These topics were also used for the afternoon small group discussions.

Over 40 participants came from Wildlife Trusts and AONBs, wild boar farmers and marketers, farmers and landowners who live beside feral boar and deal with the damage and the joys, researchers and enthusiasts.

 Contributions started with:

Defra feral wild boar consultation - the objectives and next stages
Charlie Wilson, Defra

Then the following contributors gave briefings covering aspects of our range of issues listed above:

Martin Goulding is an ex-DEFRA scientist who has a PhD in wild boar ecology. He is author of the book 'Wild Boar in Britain’ and runs the website 'www.britishwildboar.org.uk'

Derek Gow is an independent wildlife ecologist. He has participated in a range of native mammal recovery initiatives and now mainly works on water vole and European beaver restoration projects in Britain.

Derek Booth was with the Agricultural and Food Research Council and in 1989 was a founder of the British Wild Boar Association.

Jenny Farrant  farms with her husband on the Kent-Sussex border and has much recent experience of feral wild boar on the farm.

Ian Horrell is Chairman of the British Wild Boar Association.

Following a lunch of wild boar sausages, some participants watched DVD footage of feral wild boar in Britain in ‘Return of the Prodigal Pig’. Courtesy of Wild Wood productions. Participants then selected issues to discuss, in small groups, in more detail.

Summary points from discussion in groups on key issues AD

Points shown in bold were chosen by the group as the more significant.

The two groups who discussed nature conservation issues, Group 1 and 2 , gave their feedback key points first:

Group D1 - Nature conservation and woodland management issues

What are the benefits of wild boar to nature conservation?

  • Plant diversity esp. in woods    

  • Disturbance stops climax

  • Complementary with fauna

  • Random niche (diverse habitat) creation

What are the disbenefits of wild boar to nature conservation?

  • Hazard to prescribed management

  • Risk (potential risk) to priority species and habitat

  • Costs to deer management etc

What are the priority implications of these points for any other a – e topics?

  • Research Research

  • Public benefits are all that matter

  • Can we stop it anyway (spread of wild boar)?

Group D2 - Nature conservation and woodland management issues

What are the benefits of wild boar to nature conservation?

  • Intrinsic value of species

  • Potential to increase diversity

  • Introducing natural processes into the ecosystem

What are the benefits of wild boar to woodland management?

  • Very small numbers can create tree generation

What are the disbenefits of wild boar to nature conservation?

  • High density could lead to loss of species – potential

  • Could impact on BAP species

What are the disbenefits of wild boar to woodland management?

  • Impact would be additional to deer: browsing seedlings and eating seeds

What are the implications of these nature conservation points for other a – e topics?

  • May have an impact on access,  good or bad

What are the implications of these woodland management points for other a – e topics?

  • Impact on deer culling

Discussion added these points:

  • Do boars seek out dormice?

  • Boar and deer co-habitation (population dynamics)? They tend to live side by side. Are they eating same food or not? Do we know?

  • What do we know about boar’s impact on valued habitat esp. relict fragments?

  • Can boar be agents for restoration in wider and denuded countryside?

  • Might need to distinguish boar’s effects on habitats where it is, and was, native from where it is alien / invasive eg. alpine pastures

The other three groups then gave their feedback key points:

Group A - Wild boar biology, behaviour, and disease concerns

What boar behaviour and disease issues does Government need to be concerned with?

  • Impact on agriculture (disease)

  • Impact on wildlife

  • Impact on biodiversity

  • Public safety

  • Compensation

What boar behaviour and disease issues are priority for farmers and landowners?

  • Domestic population could spread disease via feral population

  • Crop damage

  • Fencing etc. – damage

  • Game management

What are priority implications of this for any other a – e topics?

  • Topic C – signage and education of the public

  • Topic D – proper analysis of pro’s and con’s

Groups  B & E together - Farming issues and farmers' experience with wild boar & The wild boar economy - food, game, hunting and visitor income

What are benefits of feral wild boar to farmers and landowners?

  • Meat sales; sporting income; wildlife interest

  • Ground clearance (if controlled) eg. bracken

What are disbenefits of feral wild boar to farmers and landowners?

  • Damage to conservation interest (eg. bluebells: unimproved/old grassland: woodland)

  • Nil compensation (in UK)

  • Disease

  • Cross breeding

  • Damage to fences

How, if at all, do farmed wild boar affect these benefits and disbenefits?

  • Taste very wild and very feral

  • Farmers can select the weight / age of boar to be slaughtered

  • Daily visual health check

  • Select breeding boar / sow

  • Free roaming wild boar are all profit when dead (no feeding and husbandry)

What are priority implications of these points for any other a – e topics?

  • Further re-introductions need to be quarantined & managed

  • Whose responsibility is compensation?

  • Disease aspects - strengthen controls on imported meats including bushmeat (ie this is not an issue for just wild boar, but a much wider issue)

Group C - Wild boar, countryside access, and walkers’ safety and responsibilities

What do landowners (private, public, institutions) need to do to alert visitors to presence of wild boar?

  • Need to clarify wild boar status

  • With private landowners, is there temptation to scare-monger, to keep people out?

  • Education – to counter scare-mongering eg. with schools:  signs and leaflets for adults

  • Need to make best use of boar as a resource

What are the responsibilities of visitors and walkers in areas of wild boar?

  • Follow and respect Country Code (this is sufficient)

  • Be informed

  • Dogs on lead

What are priority implications of these points for any other a – e topics?

  • Clarify status

  • Education

  • Management Strategy

 Discussion added these points about compensation:

  • Could pool funds from licenses for compensation

  • Compensation could be incorporated within Government agricultural and forestry support

  • NB compensation approach through Government has changed to incentivisation

and then these more general points came up at the end of the day and during the morning:

  • The Game Conservancy is concerned about boar ‘s impacts of bird shoots esp. pheasant.  NB info from Germany

  • Road accidents: It was recognised that boar can be a hazard to drivers but it was pointed out that horses, cattle and deer are of much greater significance in this respect 

  • Support was expressed for a close season to allow best prospects for sows when pregnant and weaning young. It was pointed out that the boar's breeding and rearing season is longer in practice than in theory

  • There was lively debate on if and how compensation for landowners' agricultural damage could be arranged, such as through a levy on hunting licenses

  • People with experience with boar in the field had different views on boar diets, for instance there were different views on whether boars eat chestnuts

Concluding points

 John Bowers is an Environmental Economist and Vice President of BANC British Association of Nature Conservationists 

  • Boar just ‘did it’. We are debating the issue after the event.

  • Defra consultation is mainly addressing the private costs and benefits. But we need to address the public costs and benefits.

  • Boar signifies our changing approach to nature conservation –the shift to macro conservation.