Keep them wild!

Keep them wild!, originally uploaded by Ben909.

The BBC contacted me to ask for use of a photo for their blog post today. Here’s the link…

As many will know, I’ve spent a few years watching and photographing the wild boar of the Forest of Dean. In all that time it’s been an exciting, interesting, challenging and rewarding experience. I have more boar pictures than I’ll ever get round to putting online, yet still I continue for that special shot… until recently. Frankly, I haven’t wanted to. Whilst the boar have been gaining a lot of good publicity, with regard to a much needed closed season and a management policy founded on the basis of conservation rather than politics, something else has been happening.

People have been coming to the forest from far and wide, and no doubt from nearby too, hoping to see the boar. Simultaneously, people have been feeding the boar, and to such an extent that I know of at least 4 groups that are now tame. Having spent years watching an elusive, mostly nocturnal, secretive and mysterious creature as unobtrusively as I could, I now see them in car parks, lay-bys, road-sides, illuminated by the headlights of a line of cars, while adults clap to get them to look in their direction for a picture, throw food at them, hand-feed them, or in daylight with children approaching them with their mobile phones.

It’s upsetting to see so many years of re-establishment being undone so quickly. Yet these people intend no harm – many of them have had a once in a lifetime experience, It’s hard to criticise people for pulling over and having a look – who wouldn’t stop to see a species they’ve never seen before? But the ultimate consequence of all of this is that these tame boar will be shot by the F.C. I have little doubt that many of the boar described have already been shot, and if they haven’t they probably soon will be. Through no fault of their own, they’ve lost their ‘wild’, and you could argue that removing them from the population is the best thing to do at this stage. But it shouldn’t have got to this stage – people must stop feeding the boar. By all means go in to the forest and try to track them down – you’ll have a great time and a truly special experience. But for the sake of their very chances of a continued existence in the forest, the feeding needs to stop.

Whilst the F.C’s current boar management policy has led to an ever-decreasing average age of boar in the forest, leading to inexperienced sows raising their young, they are now having to contend with artificial temptations that are chisseling away at their instincts for survival. In other words, when the time comes, they’ll probably queue up to be shot. Fortunately there are still wild wild boar in the forest, but let’s keep them that way.


4 responses to “Keep them wild!

  1. hi Ben, congratulations on the BBC blog. A lot of the deer in the Rannoch Moor, Glen Etive area of the Highlands are losing their "wildness" as well and will come and gladly eat out of your hand. No doubt it will only be a matter of time before they are culled which will be such a shame. Liking your blog.Norm (nurmanman from flickr)

  2. An interesting and informative article Ben. Although I live by the FOD, I'm pretty ignorant about these wonderful animals and have yet to see any. Are there any places locally where visitors can go and see them in captivity? I'm not a great fan of zoos per se, but if people could go to see them like that it would possibly reduce the temptation to go looking for them in the forest? It's not all just about boar management, the tourists need to be managed too. Congrats, keep up the good work, and the brilliant photos.Nick

  3. Thanks for the comments.Nick – I don't know of any captive boar or boar farms that the public can go and see. There's nothing wrong with coming to see them in the forest – it's just a problem when people feed them or insist on trying to make some kind of contact with them, especially in busy public places and on highways.

  4. The American Black Bear used to be in a similar situation. 40-50 years ago folks would travel to Yosemite and other western national parks and feed the bears and cause spectacle not unlike what you describe.Two things happened:#1 – The National Park Service changed their mission. In the early part of the 20th century they were more of a tourist organization rather than being ecological stewards of the wild lands under their control. Now they are very focused on preserving the national parks in as wild a state as possible.#2 – Bears started destroying a lot of property and injuring people in search of food. They are able to peel open a locked car door like a tin can. They would tear up campgrounds overnight, oblivious to the campers in the tents. With these two changes the government stopped all bear feeding and mandated bear-proof food storage, under penalty of heavy fines. An intensive education campaign was started.Today most people visiting the western national parks are knowledgeable about bears and their desire for people food and they take appropriate precautions. The biggest threat to bears now is speeding cars.Education ultimately is the key to keeping wild animals wild.

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