As many will know, I've spent a few years watching and photographing the wild boar of the Forest of Dean. In all that time it's been an exciting, interesting, challenging and rewarding experience. I have more boar pictures than I'll ever get round to putting online, yet still I continue for that special shot... until recently. Frankly, I haven't wanted to. Whilst the boar have been gaining a lot of good publicity, with regard to a much needed closed season and a management policy founded on the basis of conservation rather than politics, something else has been happening.
People have been coming to the forest from far and wide, and no doubt from nearby too, hoping to see the boar. Simultaneously, people have been feeding the boar, and to such an extent that I know of at least 4 groups that are now tame. Having spent years watching an elusive, mostly nocturnal, secretive and mysterious creature as unobtrusively as I could, I now see them in car parks, lay-bys, road-sides, illuminated by the headlights of a line of cars, while adults clap to get them to look in their direction for a picture, throw food at them, hand-feed them, or in daylight with children approaching them with their mobile phones.
It's upsetting to see so many years of re-establishment being undone so quickly. Yet these people intend no harm - many of them have had a once in a lifetime experience, It's hard to criticise people for pulling over and having a look - who wouldn't stop to see a species they've never seen before? But the ultimate consequence of all of this is that these tame boar will be shot by the F.C. I have little doubt that many of the boar described have already been shot, and if they haven't they probably soon will be. Through no fault of their own, they've lost their 'wild', and you could argue that removing them from the population is the best thing to do at this stage. But it shouldn't have got to this stage - people must stop feeding the boar. By all means go in to the forest and try to track them down - you'll have a great time and a truly special experience. But for the sake of their very chances of a continued existence in the forest, the feeding needs to stop.
Whilst the F.C's current boar management policy has led to an ever-decreasing average age of boar in the forest, leading to inexperienced sows raising their young, they are now having to contend with artificial temptations that are chisseling away at their instincts for survival. In other words, when the time comes, they'll probably queue up to be shot. Fortunately there are still wild wild boar in the forest, but let's keep them that way.