Escaped or released wild boar are leading hunters a merry dance as they spread in the UK, says Tony Jackson

Wild boar (Sus scrofa) are here to stay. Our mild, damp climate suits them, while we also have ample deciduous and coniferous woodland and scrubland to provide cover and opportunities for successful breeding.

Today the largest population of wild boar now thrives in the Forest of Dean where there are well over 1,000 of them. They originate from a number that escaped from a farm near Ross-on-Wye in the 1990s and were supplemented by 60 animals which were dumped on the western edge of the Forest above the Wye valley. The two groups merged and, despite Forestry Commission culls, the estimate for the area for the period 2016–2017 is 1,562 wild boar.

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Legal quarry

Wild boar in the UK are legal quarry and currently have no close season — they are not protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and can be hunted year round. If a firearms certificate carries the caveat “any legal quarry”, the holder has liberty to shoot a wild boar. If not, a condition to shoot boar must be added to an FAC by the police. Permission to hunt for boar must be given by the landowner.

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Calibres for wild boar

As far as rifles are concerned, the minimum calibre recommended is .270 and 160-gr bullet. Unlike a deer, the heart and lungs of a wild boar are small and set low down and forward in the ribcage. In addition, a wounded boar will seldom leave a blood trail. Head shots should be avoided as the skull is dense and the brain area relatively small.


A danger?

How dangerous are wild boar? Attacks against humans are extremely unlikely as these animals will usually vanish as soon as they detect a human presence. However, dog walkers should be alert to the fact that a sow with young can be aggressive in the presence of dogs and there have been several recorded attacks, including an unfortunate man who had the tip of his finger bitten off earlier this year.

An open and close season?

Wild boar appear to be settling into the landscape without too much controversy, though no doubt farmers affected by their presence would dispute this. The likelihood of total eradication is now remote and surely it is high time that thought was 
given to the introduction of a close season for pregnant and lactating sows?

Killing a sow with small, dependent young that will starve to death is the very opposite of good sportsmanship and humanity.

Defra appears to have stepped back, transferring responsibility for control to local areas and landowners, while BASC and the CLA appear to prefer 
to ignore the issue.

Wild boar facts

  • Shy and elusive, wild boar prefer to live in groups (sounders) of no more than 20 and are largely nocturnal.
  • They have a wide-ranging diet, a characteristic that aids their survival across varying habitat.
  • Though they consume mostly vegetable matter, they will also eat worms, insects, eggs, carrion, and even small mammals and birds.
  • In its natural environment, Sus scrofa has an average life expectancy of 10 years.
  • Standing 1m-high at the shoulder, weighing more than 200kg and being armed with 6in-long self-sharpening tusks, no-one can deny that a fully grown male boar makes a formidable and intimidating spectacle.
  • Appearances, though, can be deceptive, for despite looking like it has stepped from the shadows of a dark fairy tale, wild boars avoid contact with humans whenever possible, making physical conflict rare.
  • Boar have a taste for the eggs of ground-nesting birds; something that may jeopardise endangered avian species.
  • A certificate to shoot wild boar is only granted for .308 .270 and 30/06 calibre weapons.
  • However, if you intend to use 12-bore solid-slug shotgun ammunition this also has to be on your firearms certificate.