Wild boar are highly intelligent aggressive members of the pig family. Once common within the UK, they were eradicated about 300 years ago. However in the last 40-50 years people have started farming them, in the UK, as animals to be used for their meat.
Unfortunately when you keep intelligent animals in captivity they often escape, and in the UK they have been living wild for at least 30 years, with a number of significant breakouts occurring in the aftermath of the 1989 hurricanes, when many fences were blown down.
Wild boar are omnivorous, and while they mostly eat fruits and nuts they will happily feast on carrion when they get the chance.
However, being extremely large they can be dangerous for humans and animals alike. Being very large, capable of running fast and jumping high and with the males having sharp tasks, if they decide to hurt someone it is hard to defend yourself.
Defra (Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) continues to claim that there are only 1,000 boar living wild in the whole of the UK, however this number is hard to believe. Culls to control the boar numbers in the Forest of Dean are happening regularly, and in order to to kill the right number of animals you need to know the size of the population relatively accurately. This population alone is estimated to be 1,600, and with boar being seen in many other parts of the country, at the very smallest the population must number around 2000 (or twice Defra’s) estimate.
While wild boar can cause problems for their human neighbours, they are an important part of the British ecosystem, and woodlands that contain wild boar are far healthier. Walking in the Forest of Dean you’ll see a little copses of new trees all over the place, resulting from their rooting for food, in the soil, which is perfect ground for sprouting trees. In other parts of the country naturally sprouting young trees are far less common.
Unfortunately, missing all the predators in the UK there is no animals that can keep a control on the number of boar, or cause them enough fear for them to moderate their own behaviour by keeping out of sight more of the time. While this is not going to be something that will change in the near future, I hope in the longer term we will release animals such as wolves that can create a climate of fear thereby making living alongside boar and deer far safer for humans (greatly reducing car collisions with these animals that have become common in places).