PEOPLE who feed wild boar food scraps may be inadvertently putting at risk the long-term future of the species in the Forest.
The practice – which is illegal – risks bringing in devastating diseases such as African Swine Fever and Foot and Mouth, said Forestry England’s Deputy Surveyor for the Dean, Kevin Stannard.
The “contingency” for dealing with an outbreak of African Swine – the main concern – or other diseases would be the elimination of the whole population of Forest boar, he told the Forest Council’s overview and scrutiny committee.
He said: “Feeding boar is illegal with anything other than proprietary pig food and so anyone who is feeding wild boar over their garden fence is not only breaking the law, that is main vector that is going to bring disease such as Foot and Mouth or African Swine Fever into the Forest.
If those diseases get into the Forest that will be the end of the wild boar population because the contingency for the disease would be to get rid of the boar population.
I’ve no idea how we would do that but that is the contingency response.
The results of this year’s thermal imaging survey which will give an estimate of boar numbers on land managed by Forestry England are still outstanding.
The results of the survey, which uses body heat to count numbers, is “significant” for the future management of the boar.
The estimate for 2022 was 441 after three years of very high culling – down from a peak of 1,635 in 2018 said Mr Stannard.
It’s significant this Spring’s figure because 400 is the target population.
By dropping to 441 last year we are very close to the target population and that poses the question how many boar do you have to cull at that low level and not let the population rebound again?
We’re aware that figure needs to be received and we need to some serious thinking about cull levels.
We are confident from the road traffic data which very closely match the population density data we are still around the 400-500 mark.
I would be very surprised if it is higher than that given the low level of road traffic accidents being reported.
That survey only covers land that Forestry England manage. The equipment and methodology have stayed more or less the same so while you can debate the figure, the trends indicated by the surveys are reliable.
The wild boar population has been with us since before 2008.
The annual Spring thermal imaging survey began in 2013 and that produced a headline figure of 535 wild boar on the public forest estate in the Forest of Dean.
In 2018 we peaked at 1,635 wild boar so between 2013 and 2018 in that five-year period the population exploded and by Spring last year we dropped to 441animals after three years of very high culling.
Cllr Di Martin Lab, Cinderford West, said there was a problem with boar coming into the town.
She said: “We seem to have a lot roaming within Cinderford.
“We’re also very aware that people are feeding them which does encourage them into settlements and this year there seems to be a real issue with the numbers.”
Mr Stannard said: “There are two reasons why they move into settlements partly because they aren’t under the same culling pressure and partly because they know they can get food there.
“If you don’t want them in the settlements, you need to stop feeding them.
“Boar are intelligent and in the trees they are aware of which areas they are more likely to get shot “With deer rangers can move through an area and they don’t seem to remember from one week to the next where they got shot whereas boar do so the wildlife rangers have to move about a lot more.
“We have liaised with individual householders or groups of householders who’ve had specific problems and on a limited basis we are sometimes able to help such as deploying a trap or having a ranger in place but it depends on safe shots.