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Wild boar family faces cruel end in south Mayo

Outdoor Living

DIFFERENT PLACE Ireland’s climate and landscape has changed so much since wild boar lived here that they can no longer survive.

Wild boar family faces cruel end in south Mayo

Country Sights and Sounds
John Shelley

The appearance on social media of what appears to be a south Mayo wild boar family has raised a few hackles and left some people bristling.
Just where these animals came from is likely known only by those who irresponsibly released them into an area where they will surely fail to survive, let alone thrive. In other parts of Ireland wild boar have become established. While there are believable reports of populations in parts of Roscommon, most come from more richly forested land in Clare and Tipperary, where it seems those invested in shooting and hunting have taken matters into their own hands to create a viable, self-sustaining quarry species.
The introduction of non-native animals is in breach of Irish wildlife law. More, the introduction of a bunch of hungry wild pigs to a bleak and barren part of Mayo is just cruel. The future of these animals does not look bright.
According to the Invasive Species Ireland (ISI) website, ‘The wild boar has been identified as one of Ireland’s Most Unwanted Invasive Species’, both north and south of the border. The Invasive Species Ireland Steering Group warns that if wild boar were to become established it could threaten agricultural productivity, transmit disease to livestock, damage fencing, crops and pastureland and more. (The ISI is the birthchild of the consorting National Parks and Wildlife Service in the Republic and the Environment Agency in the North, in an at least partly successful attempt to create an All-Ireland environmental standard.)
Some years ago a farming friend in the United Kingdom planted hundreds of acres of native trees, which were carefully fenced in an attempt to prevent an incursion of native red deer. The deer fence worked, for a while. Then wild boar either escaped from a farm or were deliberately released into the area.
When an attempt was made to eradicate these animals, their little piggy minds got to work. Deciding they would be better off within the confines of my friends newly established woodland they set about destroying parts of the deer fence, and once they got through they used their powerful snouts to plough up the woodland paths in their search for food, while plenty of deer also took advantage of the breach in the fence and went in to do their own damage.
Going back to the Invasive Species Ireland website, spokesman John Kelly refers to an Action Plan that focuses ‘primarily on prevention and responding to any threats that arise’, and further adds ‘if we can prevent wild boar from becoming established in Ireland we can prevent the economic and environmental harm that a wild population could cause’.
What does that mean for those half grown boarlets at Tawnyard? Put simply and in brutal terms it means their days are numbered. They have not long to live. In fact, by the time this gets to print they might well have been ‘removed’. Perhaps they will be caught up and rehomed behind the kind of reinforced fencing needed to confine such determined creatures.
‘Wait,’ some may argue, ‘Was the wild boar not once a native Irish animal? Is bringing it back not the right thing to do?’
While it seems certain that wild boar did indeed roam most of this country, they died out between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago, depending on whom you choose to believe. But we must remember that Ireland was a far different place back then, densely forested, with very little human interference on the landscape and a far different climate than we currently experience.
So what would become of the few wild boar currently running around south Mayo? Left to themselves, the males would mature at two and a half feet tall with a weight of 220 pounds or more, a sort of sharply tusked Tyson Fury on hooves – not a pretty opponent should matters of trespass come to a head. Eastern European males have been recorded far in excess of that weight.
The smaller female begins breeding at a year old and might produce two litters a year with six to ten piglets in each. If she continues productive for ten years, which is certainly conceivable, one sow could almost fill Mayo with pigs single-handedly, within her own lifetime.
While the boar, being armed with teeth and tusks and fueled by a violent disposition, is not one to be trifled with, a sow with a litter at foot might also make a dangerous companion. Perhaps there will yet be a thriving population of wild boar in this county. I’ve a feeling we aren’t ready for it yet.