DescriptionThe Forest of Dean is the second largest crown forest in the UK, a 42.5 square mile area of woodland in Gloucestershire, near the border between England and Wales. Wild boar (Sus scrofa) have been established in the Forest of Dean for almost twenty years after an absence for 700 years. From a small population of 60, the population has grown to approximately 1500, despite management efforts. Wild boar are increasingly seen roaming outside of the Forest of Dean and into the surrounding farmland, countryside and even nearby towns and villages. The Forest of Dean is a national tourism hot-spot, with many paths dissecting the woodland, and outdoor activity centres and holiday rental properties located within and around the forest. Consequently people-boar interactions have increased in recent years. There is growing concern among local residents, and increasingly residents and local authorities, charged with managing the boar, are in conflict with each other. Using data from (i) semi structured interviews with residents and other users of the Forest of Dean and (ii) an online questionnaire survey I examine these conflicts, discuss possible mitigation strategies proposed by participants, and explore the feasibility of these proposals.
Interview and questionnaire data show that all but a few participants have experienced a negative interaction with wild boar. Interactions range from road traffic accidents, being charged, and even knocked over by boar, to boar blocking people’s path when out walking. Despite these negative interactions, many participants expressed the view that the wild boar should be kept in the Forest of Dean, with only a few expressing a need for extermination. Due to boar numbers increasing despite culling efforts, residents near or inside the Forest of Dean exhibit some distrust towards the authorities managing the fauna and flora inside the Forest of Dean. Interviewees indicated they thought the current control killing is ineffectual at managing boar numbers. Participants proposed a number of possible management strategies, including lethal methods (gun hunting, bow hunting, extermination with the Forest of Dean) and non-lethal methods (fencing a population of wild boar), and methods relying on biological management through contraception, and introducing new species – nematodes to control food supply, and wolves to act as a predator.
All current and suggested management strategies have inherent flaws, linked both to the Forest of Dean as an area and wild boar biology. My findings suggest that culling of wild boar is the most feasible option for the Forest of Dean population, but current methods are not suited to the Forest of Dean environment and people living within the Forest of Dean. Changes to implement would include a closed season when young are dependent on sows, culling from the edges of the forest to encourage the boar to stay inside the forested area rather than current methods of culling from within the forest, and allowing cull-free zones for boar deep within the forested area away from human settlement. Such changes would meet current concerns over wild boar management and lower the number of people-boar interactions.
|Pathways Europe 2018