At the beginning of 2006 there were around 60 wild boar missing from a farm near West Anstey, they had be released by some mindless animal rights protesters. Originally there were 100 wild boars released but locals managed to re-capture 40 of them but the farmer warned at the time that most of the females still at large were pregnant.
By the February of 2006 reports were coming in of sightings of wild boar on the southern fringes of Dartmoor, especially in the Horrabridge area. This meant that if they came from the escaped Exmoor herd the animals had made a journey of about 40 miles as the crow flies. The journey would also have involved crossing the busy A30 dual carriageway at some point or finding a tunnel under it. In late November a herd of 50 wild boar were once again released by some clowns at a farm near Holsworthy. This time the boar only had to travel about 23 miles as the crow flies – if pigs could fly – to reach the Horrabridge area. Once again they would have had to cross or go under the A30 and obviously some did and saved their bacon. Either way it was a remarkable journey for any beast to undertake. Come April there were sightings of groups of 3 or 4 animals but by October there were sightings of between 11 and 15 wild boar near Horrabridge and 12 – 17 in woods at Buckland Monachorum. Locally the boar have become something of a tourist attraction with people coming to see the beasts. It has also been reported that several areas of the moor edge are being subjected to damage caused by the boars rooting and digging around. But on the 1st of January 2007 things began to get serious when a man walking his dogs at Buckland Monachorum reported that a wild boar charged at the dogs. Luckily both man and dogs managed to make a hasty retreat and nobody was hurt. I am sure this is not going to be the end of the ‘Dartmoor Boars’ and as the saga unfolds throughout the coming year further comment will be added.
Well, that didn’t take long, it was reported that on the same day an elderly lady was taking her Dachshund for a walk near Buckland when it wandered off into some bushes. Moments later she heard the dog yelping and rushed to see what the problem was. She was soon confronted with the dog on the ground and two female and a male wild boar stood over it. Despite being 80 years of age the old dear set about the boar with the dog’s lead and managed to drive them off. ‘Bosun’ the 14″ high Dachshund was reported to be well but feeling ‘pig sick’ over the encounter.
At a public meeting in February (2007) it was decided that a six months ‘monitoring programme’ of the wild boar would be implemented. The local parish council called the meeting amidst growing concern about the number of boar now on the moor. The monitoring programme will be jointly carried out by the Maristow Estate, Natural England and the Dartmoor National Park Authority.
If one looks back in time the sight of wild boars on Dartmoor would not have been a novel occurrence as they were indigenous to the moor. The Forest was a royal hunting ground and one of the creatures hunted was the wild boar. It is reckoned that the last boar to be killed on the moor was sometime in the seventeenth century. Here are a few ‘boaring’ facts:
A group of wild boar is known as a ‘sounder’.
They are active during night but depending on food supply the day as well.
Their main food sources are carrion, small animals, insects, worms, snakes, roots, bulbs, berries, nuts and fungi.
During the courtship ritual the male will produce a salivary foam containing pheromones.
The young are born in a nest after a 115 day gestation period.
The female will produce her first litter of between 2 – 3 piglets, subsequently rising to 4 – 6.
Wild boar can weigh anything between 50 and 200kg.
The life-span of a boar is 15 – 20 years.
Their daily cycle of activity is related to the time of sunset.
Their habitat density is 1 – 5 boars to the square kilometre.
Boars have been known to travel 12 miles in a week.
For much more information visit the British Wild Boar website – HERE
Just a final thought, the Dartmoor National Park covers and area of 954 square kilometres of which 52% or about 496 square kilometres would be suitable habitats for wild boar. Taking an average habitat density of 2 boar per square kilometre this could mean that Dartmoor could sustain a population of 992 animals. It would be possible for a wild boar to travel the length of the moor in 2 weeks, ie. Ivybridge to Sticklepath
In June 2007 the ‘Beast of Houndtor‘ was photographed near Hound Tor and after the initial excitement died down many experts believe that the unidentified animal was a wild boar. If this is the case then some of the south Dartmoor population has travelled, as the crow flies, the fifteen and a half odd miles to Hound Tor?
On December 30th 2007 it was reported that several of the Dartmoor wild boar had decided to go and have a look at the Christmas sales in Tavistock centre. Reports said that they were happily mingling amongst the Christmas shoppers and were even seen looking through a cafe window. Police and a vet responded to emergency calls but by the time they arrived the boar had wandered off. One eyewitness claimed they saw a herd of about 10 boars in the Crowndale area, perhaps they all simply got ‘bored’ with the Christmas festivities and went in search of some amusement – who can blame them?