In the Land of the Wild Boar

This is wild boar territory. They search for food mainly at dawn and dusk, rootling among fallen leaves to find anything that takes their fancy and seems edible. They’re opportunistic feeders, eating almost anything they can find. That’s mainly plants and roots but they’ll also eat any small animal they can catch as well as worms, insects and eggs. Newly hatched birds and reptiles can be a delicious titbit. They make a den for nesting and resting and will oftentimes build a shelter by cutting long grass and then crawling under it to lift it and form a canopy. They communicate with each other loudly and frequently, grunting and squeaking to let others in the pack (called a “sounder”) know where they are and what food is available. Sows will also use a range of grunts and squeals and chunterings to discipline and locate her piglets.

I’ve often seen them close to my home. Once, a rather tired and elderly looking male sauntered casually through my garden and flopped down to rest, as if absolutely exhausted, just outside the gate. Concerned for his wellbeing I tried to approach him with a bowl of water but my presence was clearly disturbing and he dragged himself wearily to his feet and lumbered off up the hillside. I was sorry that I hadn’t left him in peace. My good intentions were, on this occasion at least, misguided.

On another occasion, walking with Tara, I heard a rustling and scrunching in the undergrowth beside the track we were walking along. Tara’s ears pricked up and she stood stock still staring fixedly in the direction of the sound. My first thought was that it was a person hiding – with what purpose I didn’t even begin to speculate on – but I very quickly realised that given the height of the vegetation the person would have had to be crawling on all fours or about 1 metre tall both of which did seem somewhat unlikely. Suddenly a small head popped above the plants – then another, a third and finally a fourth – four wild boar piglets. I was then able to identify the grunting and mumbling of the sow, invisible to me but concerned about the safety of her babies. The last piglet to appear, looked for a couple of seconds at me and at Tara, decided that discretion was definitely the better part of valour, ducked beneath the level of sight and scuttled back to Mum’s safe-keeping. The other three were more curious and stared for quite a few minutes at these two strange creatures who appeared nothing like anything else they’d ever seen before deciding that we weren’t so very interesting after all and returning, one by one to their foraging and chomping.

I find it hard to understand how anyone can hunt and kill such lovely creatures just as I find it difficult to understand how anyone, having seen one in the wild, can then eat a piece of it. But then, some people say carrots scream when they’re pulled from the ground.



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