The news is happening in many cities of Spain: wild boars are increasingly introduced into urban centers, a phenomenon that has been increasing during the pandemic. Madrid, Seville, Oviedo, Pamplona, Zaragoza, Girona, Barcelona… It doesn’t just happen in our country. In many European cities, these ancestors of domestic pigs have also become a pest, sometimes dangerous. In the north of Rome, for example, the residents have decided to lock themselves up at home from 8:30 p.m.; several citizens have been attacked by wild boars when they were going to throw out the rubbish or while carrying bags of food.
“The expansion of the wild boar has been incredible, in Spain, in Europe and other parts of the world,” explains the expert biologist in fauna management Carme Rosell, at the head of the environmental consultant Minuartia. In our country, its population has doubled in two decades. “They have accessed a gigantic pantry: our farm fields and organic waste from cities. Nothing limits its population increase effectively: nor have predators; the area of its natural habitat, the forest, is increasing, and the winters are less cold. But there is another essential factor: they have lost their fear of human beings,” he stresses. What’s more, they associate us with food, in large part because many people provide them with food, a well-intentioned habit that belies the reality: wild boars are wild animals. That is its nature and we must not pervert it.
In Spain there are more than a million wild boars and, although some 400,000 specimens are hunted each year, in 2025 its population could double, according to data from the Hunting Resources Research Institute (IREC). “When food is scarce in the natural environment and they do not have access to crops, wild boars usually have an annual litter of two or three boars. But if there is a surplus of food, that number can double,” says Rosell. The situation has also been aggravated by the hybridization of wild boars with Vietnamese pigs, animals that, like so many others, one day became the fashionable pet only to end up being abandoned in the wild, and today in Spain it is considered an invasive species. The excess of wild boars causes serious problems: damage to crops, traffic accidents (only in Catalonia, almost 4,000 a year) and transmission of very worrying diseases, such as African swine fever (ASF), which, although it does not affect humans, does affect domestic pigs. Introduced in Eastern Europe from Asia, it is getting closer: in January the first case of a wild boar infected with this virus was detected in the Italian region of Piedmont and in May a new outbreak was detected in Rome.
Many Spanish cities suffer the consequences of an overpopulation of wild boars that city councils try to control without success. Clever and adaptable, these mammals turn over wastebaskets, rummage through containers, flock to cat colonies for cat food, and tear up garden beds for insects and bulbous plants. Carme Rosell and her team have collaborated in the elaboration of a guide to deterrent measures published by the Diputación de Barcelona and the Generalitat de Catalunya to limit the damage caused by an animal that, according to the biologist, is winning the game by a landslide. «In the cities, green areas should be created with species that are unattractive for wild boars, which have a predilection for orchids, andInstall anti-rollover street furniture and cat feeders that cannot be accessed. But there is a fourth measure that is undoubtedly the most difficult to implement: to convince citizens that the issue is not learning to live with wild boars, but do everything possible so that they return to live in the forest and preserve their most original essence: their condition as wild animals». That is your most precious treasure.
This article is from the July 2022 issue of National Geographic magazine.