(ANIMAL WORLD) Since 2008, Berliners have been reporting skyrocketing numbers of boars dwelling in their midst. It seems strange that such large and wild animals would take up residence in a bustling city, but the tusked, cloven pigs have come to call Berlin home. And their numbers are continually swelling. Many, including the city’s government, view the roaming boars as a nuisance for causing numerous traffic accidents, creating dangerous situations for residents, and digging up everything from private gardens to cemeteries. Some, however, view the highly intelligent swine as friends.
For these past few years, Berlin has been in a state of tug-of-war over whether to eliminate the boars or welcome them to city life. And while no one’s yet ready to build a wall, the animal lovers of Berlin are enraged by a pack of hunters hired to put down the city-slicking pigs.
Germany isn’t the only country grappling with what to do with urban and suburban-dwelling swine. Boars are flourishing in North America; even the Hawaiian islands are under pressure of more and more boars in residential areas. Just last week, California’s San Diego County, which is said to be overrun with swine, reported that mass hunting efforts remain ineffective as population control. Boars are not only exceedingly intelligent, but reproduce quickly, with the typical sow delivering three litters of ten or so piglets annually.
The coexistence of people and boars has created several dire environmental and safety problems, and the appropriate method for resolving the issues is unclear. Dwindling rural environments and the demand for access to resources puts pressure on urban areas worldwide. Read how the boars of Berlin are caught in this flux… – Global Animal
The Wall Street Journal, Marcus Walker
BERLIN — Gabriele Klose simply couldn’t let the hunter kill the wild boar running around her flower store. Not after it looked up at her with big, innocent eyes.
The hairy beast was one of thousands of wild boars that have discovered the charms of urban living in Germany’s
leafy capital city. When the creature trotted out of rush-hour traffic one morning last month to root around the flower store, Ms. Klose’s first thought was: “That is one ugly dog.”
After a second glance, Ms. Klose phoned the police for safety — and a local tabloid for publicity. The police called in Matthias Eggert, one of a crack band of hunters with license to kill hogs in urban areas. But Mr. Eggert’s plan to dispatch the boar appalled Ms. Klose. The hunter says the tabloid reporter brandished a camera and warned him he’d have the whole of Berlin on his case if he pulled the trigger. Mr. Eggert sensed a PR debacle, so he phoned around until he found an animal sanctuary 40 miles from Berlin that granted the boar asylum and named the swine “Amanda.”
The Battle Over Boars in Berlin
Thousands of wild, tusked ancestors of domestic pigs have discovered the charms of urban living in Germany’s capital city. Some humans are happy to coexist, while others see the boars as a pest that should be eliminated.
Mr. Eggert, a 55-year-old forestry official, fumes at Berlin’s “vegans and whatnot” who are, he thinks, too sentimental about the city’s pesky boars. “If we don’t get brutally pragmatic, the problem is going to get totally out of hand,” he says. Berlin’s wooded parks, suburbs and increasingly mild winters make it Europe’s capital city for sus scrofa, the wild, tusked ancestor of the domestic pig. The booming population of porkers has Germans on the run, reversing the natural order of things.
Boars like to dig up worms and grubs with their snouts, churning manicured gardens into muddy battlefields. They’ve plowed up parks, cemeteries and even the training ground of Berlin’s major-league soccer team, Herta BSC.
The swine are an obstacle on Berlin’s streets, where 211 have died in traffic accidents in the past eight months. But despite the porcine problem, part of Berlin’s human population is siding with the boars against those who shoot them. Urban hunters have been beaten with sticks, called “murderers” and had their tires slashed. Mr. Eggert once had to call for police protection when a crowd of young partygoers, enraged after he shot a boar that had been wounded by a car, threatened to beat him up.
The boars are usually peace-loving. But 250-pound adults armed with sharp, upward-curving tusks can be dangerous if they think they’re cornered. In October, when hunters shot a tusker in a cornfield south of Berlin, the wounded animal counterattacked, killing one man and injuring another who’d come to finish it off. Every year in Berlin several dogs are gored to death after rashly challenging boars to a fight. On one occasion, three boars got lost in a day-care center on Alexanderplatz in the heart of Berlin and panicked. The children hadn’t arrived for the day yet, but the boars nearly gored the janitor.
The growing threat to life, limb and lawns has led Berlin to take extraordinary measures. In 2002, City Hall began appointing specialStadtjäger, or “urban hunters.” Some are police by day, others are veterinarians. A couple, like Mr. Eggert, are foresters. Their quarry is streetwise.
“Some swine know the city better than we do,” says Mr. Eggert. “They know every gap in a fence, every abandoned building they can hide in.”
Firing a hunting rifle in the city is a tricky business. Hunters have to decline risky shots: A bullet that ricochets off cobblestones can fly a long way. But hunting in the forests around Berlin isn’t enough to control boar numbers. Too many boars live in town full-time because they’ve figured out it’s safer, says Derk Ehlert, City Hall’s special commissioner for wildlife. Other boars relocate to the suburbs only on weekends during the hunting season, returning to the forests on Mondays when the hunters and dogs have gone.
“Boars are extremely smart,” says Mr. Ehlert, a trained biologist. “If they weren’t so smart, they wouldn’t be so successful.”
Hunters have shot over 500 boars in urban areas since April, but boar numbers keep rising. Up to 7,000 now live
in the city, Mr. Ehlert estimates. “There is no way that hunting can get rid of them all,” he says. “Ultimately we must learn to share the city with the swine.” The key to peaceful coexistence is no fraternizing, says Mr. Ehlert.
One pack (called a “sounder”) of boars took to hanging out at a playground in Berlin’s posh Dahlem district. The chief sow sunbathed on the warm tarmac of a main road, holding up traffic, while her striped sucklings played with children.
“If one piglet had squealed because a kid had held it wrongly, the sow would have attacked,” says Mr. Ehlert. He had police cordon off the playground while hunters gunned down the entire sounder in front of shocked residents.
On a recent snowy evening, Mr. Ehlert stopped his van near a derelict U.S. listening station on a hilltop in former West Berlin. During the Cold War, the U.S.’s National Security Agency eavesdropped on the Soviet bloc from here. Now the hill is crawling with boars. One by one, they emerged from the trees, grunting in expectation, until 15 plump hogs surrounded the van. “Someone is clearly feeding them,” says Mr. Ehlert. That’s illegal, because it leads to inappropriate boar-human mingling.
Some Berliners are defying the law every night, bringing boars food out of affection for the beasts. Unemployed
truck driver Michael Gericke opened the trunk of his white Mercedes and tossed corn onto a parking lot. A score of hogs scrimmaged over the spoils. One tried to climb into the trunk.
Mr. Gericke says he has been feeding boars here every night for 12 years, making him the doyen of Berlin’s boar-loving underground. Every two weeks he spends €15, or about $20, of his jobless benefits on a 110-pound sack of corn. “Feeding them corn diversifies their diet,” he says.
Only a handful of people have come out to feed the foragers on this December night. In summertime, says Mr. Gericke, hundreds of Berliners show up.
Berlin’s forestry officials say they’re filing charges against Mr. Gericke that could lead to a hefty fine. Mr. Gericke says that won’t stop him, because he can’t pay anyway. “Even if they send me to prison instead, I won’t stop.”
His loyalty to boars stems from an epiphany he had years ago, when he opened his car door and a large tusker he’d been feeding hopped in. “I thought he was going to bite my leg off,” says Mr. Gericke.
Instead, the boar put his head in Mr. Gericke’s lap. “It was as if he was saying, ‘Thank you,’” Mr. Gericke says.
Mr. Eggert, the hunter, thinks it’s time Berlin’s authorities got tough. He says: “We should just gather hunters at the these feeding sites, make the civilians stand aside, and feed the swine with lead.”