Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Open Season!

Below you will find a link to my latest newspaper column. It focuses on the wild boar once again and I hope you will find the time to share your views and comment. Just open the link and search for the feature "Open Season". You will also see a link for 2020 Vision, this will become relevent when you start reading.

I have also pasted the unedited text below the links.

Open Season

2020 Vision 2020Vision will be featured on BBC Countryfile on Sunday 14th August.

Open Season

The Wild Boars will always be a hot topic while they are here in the Forest of Dean and this is why I need to highlight them again.
Whether you love them or hate them, they are living creatures and nobody with a heart would want to see an animal suffer, but that is exactly what is happening in our wonderful forest.
During the early part of 2011 I worked very hard with a friend; world famous wildlife photographer and conservationist Andy Rouse and together, deep in the forest we tracked and monitored a sounder of wild boars for the most ambitious conservation visual media initiative ever staged in Britain. This initiative is called 2020 Vision and all details of this project can be found online.
After finding the boars the next stage was for Andy to photograph them in the wild, in their natural habitat.
All was going well and it was great to see eight young piglets emerge with their proud mum in early March. However, on 31st March while out checking on them I found all eight piglets wandering, or rather running around the forest alone! Alarm bells started to ring right away as I have never seen a sow leave her piglets on their own in the past and as they were still on their own 4 hours later, I knew that the sow had to be dead.
I photographed this sounder the previous week and the sow was healthy, indicating that she had not succumbed to an illness or disease. Poachers may have taken her, but as the location was deep in the forest I am not so sure.
I had to tell Andy that day and it was then that I realised how close he had become to this sounder. He was emotionally gutted and for the “first time in my LIFE”, I felt ashamed of the way our wildlife was being treated in the Forest of Dean.
At present there is no closed season on the culling of wild boars and in my personal opinion, this is morally wrong as the piglets are dependant on their mum’s milk for around 3 months.
Other feeding sows have been known to take over feeding responsibilities if another sow, which has dependant piglets, dies, but this did not happen with the little ones we were monitoring and slowly they disappeared.
Basically when these little ones lost their mum it was no different to a human mother taking away her baby’s milk within the first month of its life!
Whoever took out this sow is aware of what they did and they also understood the implications of what will have happened to the piglets. In short they were doomed to suffer an agonising death from malnutrition and starvation. The welfare of the wild boars in the Forest of Dean needs to be addressed IMMEDIATELY.
Predominantly, the majority of wild boar births happen in the spring, so the implementation of a closed season would have to be from late February to early June or until the piglets have lost their dependency on their mum’s milk. However, the sows have a gestation period of approximately four months, so I feel the culling of pregnant sows is also morally wrong.
I understand that the wild boar has no natural predators in the UK today and like our deer they require management, but what if there were little deer fawns running around out there, left on their own to die? Would that be acceptable, would it? I think not and as the wild boars are tight family units with strong bonds, they deserve to be treated in the same way as our deer, which have the luxury of a closed season!
To date (7 years) no human has been attacked by a wild boar in the UK and this is something that needs to be realised by the powers to be, which are calling for their eradication.
Not the best start for the Forest of Dean’s involvement in Britain’s most ambitious conservation project!



  1. Very depressing. I suppose it's sport for some. They will have to have a closed season. The authorities would not enforce it though. Firearms are licensed. Do police check the holders after protected species are found shot. No or rarely.
    So without any protection then this scenario will keep on repeating itself.

  2. I find many people (both local and visitors) quite ignorant when it comes to the issue of the boar and it often saddens me when I hear negativity about them or articles such as this highlighting the issues our local wildlife face. I think a closed season should definitely be called for and I also think belts need to be tightened upon the issue of poaching round here. If you need any help/support Rob I'd be happy to help.


  3. By the sounds of it rob, the forestry commision are more interested in fast growing non native trees that create profit and keeping the place tidy i.e short verges and random braken mowing so it all looks nice. The boar game is all about the figures and to be seen doing something. Thats only my opinion.