Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Wild Boar, a menace moving south

Wild boar and their close relatives, feral pigs, are making more of a nuisance of themselves closer to the coast in the Algarve this year because of previous wildfires inland. 
Family groups of these somewhat dangerous animals have been reportedly enjoying themselves on popular beaches, including Quarteira, Albandeira and Nossa Senhora da Rocha. Mercifully, they stay hidden during the day, only appearing at dusk and dawn, and so do not interfere with human sunbathers.
Javali, the name for wild boar in Portuguese, are not often seen on golf courses either but their nocturnal presence has been apparent on some, such as Gramacho near Carvoeiro and Parque da Floresta west of Lagos. Morgado near Portimão suffered badly before it was fenced.
The attraction of golf courses in spring and summer is that they are well irrigated, making scratching for food easier
As omnivores, the wild boar and descendants of escaped domesticated pigs gone wild, eat acorns, nuts, seeds, fruit, creepy-crawlies, mice, small reptiles and much besides. They dive into wheelie bins in search of lunch and dinner scraps.
In many places such as Odeaxere near Lagos they destroy farm crops. In the Odelouca Valley near Silves they have been turfing up young Quercus canariensis, a special and rare native tree, being cultivated by environmentalist Antonio Lambe. In the process the boars have damaged parts of the irrigation system. 
Hunters and their dogs go after wild boar in what is known in Portuguese as a montado. Usually on a Saturday in the autumn a man in a red scarf near Messines would conduct the hunt blowing a horn. The dogs, specially bred for this type of hunting, would leap on the boar before the hunters get there. 
“Those tusks are unforgiving. It's pretty gruesome,” says John Greenhill who has watched from an opposite hillside. 
“After the kill, the boar is transported on a pole to the hunting club lodge to be butchered. A lot of drink is taken, mainly the hard stuff, bagaço or medronho.
“I have a neighbour whom I have never met who used to put a wire noose on the boar path, always on a steep part so the boar would run headfirst into it and strangle itself slowly. I know this because I have cut two dogs out of the trap.
“I used to go regularly and destroy the nooses, so eventually whoever it was gave up.”
The presence of more wild boar closer to the coast this year is thought to have been forced by the extensive wildfires in their favourite habitat in the hills and foothills of the Algarve.
Early risers may now spot wild boar in the countryside anywhere from Aljezur in the far west to the Guadiana River in the far east.
This year, for the first time in decades of living in a small wood just north of the N125 at Porches, the Fitzpatrick family have watched groups of up to ten feral pigs close to their home. And there have been reports too of javali in the Porches countryside south of the N125.
Sudden outbursts of barking by fenced-in dogs at around sunrise or sunset can be a useful  signal that wild boars or feral pigs are passing nearby.
Javali are capable of wrecking cars and have done so in collisions on ill-lit country roads in the Loulé area
People out walking in the countryside need to be cautious. Should you encounter one or more of these mighty, fanged creatures, back off!  Avoid any form of confrontation.
Don’t for a moment imagine you can outrun animals with such robust bodies but relatively little legs. They can sprint at 40 km/h and jump over obstacles one and a half metres tall.

Although short-sighted, wild boar and feral pigs can quickly sense potential trouble but generally try to avoid conflict with humans by running for cover in dense undergrowth.  
Global warming permitting, they are here to stay. They are among the most widespread wild mammals in the world and among the least endangered.

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