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Wild things

January 4, 2011

Coming home on the train from our New Year celebrations in central France, we had a true Asterix (or to be more exact Obelix since it is his favourite food) moment. We had to change train just short of Nevers in order to get back to Paris as our one wasn’t safe to continue…

The cause? We had run into a wild boar that had ripped off part of the front of the train and sent a shower of sparks along the rails!

Wow I didn’t know one little beast could do so much damage. However looking today at the stats I see that practically all over France there are hundreds of road collisions every year > see this chart below for an indication. I am now wondering how I have never before stumbled upon one gallumping somewhere in the French countryside.

So often these days we are alerted to diminishing numbers in various species. However the wild boar is seemingly a sturdy animal. It has rather turned the statistics upside down and indeed lots of people in France have the opposite opinion that there are too many of them running around. They can cause untold damage to property: for example almost 20 MILLION EUROS of insurance claims in 2005 were related to damage caused by wild boars. Pretty wild indeed!

Hunting has long been a French national pastime and yet according to the National Office for Hunting & Wild Animals, the number of hunters has greatly diminished in recent years and wild boars are apt to breed very quickly. There are no other natural predators than man so their population has exploded to over a million animals.

They are naturally timid and rather nocturnal tending to shun human contact, but if driven to defend themselves or their offspring can become very aggressive. They eat mostly berries, roots, acorns etc from foraging in the forests using their tusks as digging implements (although these come in very handy on the defence side of things too I imagine!) They also eat small animals such as lizards or rodents. The males can grow up to 200lbs (90kgs) and they live to an age of around 10 years old in the wild.

Jean Louis Borloo was the Environment Minister in 2009 and to address the population explosion he set up the “National Plan for controlling wild boar”. Yes really, it is that serious….

Apart from the damage to farmland, over 60% of road accidents involving animals are due to wild boar, and progressively more and more are encroaching on urban environments.
Anyway the whole thing seems to have created a lot of debate, much of it quite heated as feelings run high when it comes to national institutions such as hunting & farming. However unlike in the UK the animal rights movement is rather quiet.

If you are a hiker with a passion for woodland, then it is quite possible that you could come across one of these beasts so be sure to give it a wide berth if you do and don’t upset it! Probably as a tourist though, the nearest you will ever get to a wild boar is in a restaurant – look out for “sanglier” on the menu and give it a try: it is really delicious & Obelix would be proud of you.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2011 4:57 pm

    My friend Agnes spotted a great sequel to my post last week!

    The headline in Ouest France , the paper for the West if France was “Deux sangliers braquent une bijouterie !” or in english, “Two wild boars rob a jewellers shop!” It seems that a terrified shop assistant had to run out of the shop as two porky boars ripped through the shop and caused chaos. However they apparently ran out again without stealing anything….

  2. cousine d'amerique permalink
    January 12, 2011 12:55 am

    Bring back the wild cat, which will at least attempt to eat the smaller boars. Or the wolves! I’ve only ever come across their spoor or the flattened bits of grass, like minor whirlwind footsteps, where boars have temporarily settled down for an afternoon.

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