Wild boars are becoming increasingly common in urban areas of France, prompting local authorities and residents to take action to reduce their presence in town centres and near people’s homes.
There are currently an estimated three million wild boar in France, figures from la Fédération nationale des chasseurs (FNC) show, and they are becoming more and more likely to venture into urban areas on the hunt for food and safe spaces.
Police on patrol in Nîmes, in Gard - one of the departments that has seen a marked rise in boar numbers - reported last Sunday that they had come across two boar in the town centre at 3:00 last Sunday, in a far-from isolated case.
Thierry Coste, spokesperson at the FNC, told newspaper Le Figaro: “Boars are very opportunistic and they can travel for kilometres to find food. They adapt very quickly to densely-populated areas, where they find shelter without being bothered, as you cannot hunt within 150 metres of housing.
“At night, they eat out of bins. During the day, they hide on the edge of housing estates or commercial areas, where there are wastelands in which they can take cover.”
Yet, boar in urban places can cause damage to land and property - and they are also linked to 25,000 road accidents per year, some of which have been fatal.
As a result, local authorities in many places are taking action.
Jean Dionis du Séjour, mayor of Agen in the Lot-et-Garonne, said: “The boar population has multiplied by four in 10 years in our department. It is not uncommon to see them in town.
“Administrative hunts, which are objectively dangerous, are less and less accepted by the population. Using a bow and arrow is anecdotal.
“We have therefore decided, in conjunction with the communes of the town, to reduce public and private areas of land, because they are places where [the boars] feel protected and reproduce easily.”
In the Dordogne, Yannick Bidaud, mayor of the commune Marsac-sur-l’Isle, authorised an official hunt from 19:00 to help tackle the issue.
Wolf and wild animal specialist Loïc Bourgeix, who took part in the operation, said: “[An official hunt] is more efficient. We killed a wild boar that was close to a [child’s] swing, in the garden of a private house to the north of the town.”
Another option is to capture the animals.
In the Loire-Atlantique, cities and towns such as Nantes, Saint-Nazaire, and others, are also starting to see a rise in boar numbers.
Dany Rose, president of the department’s hunting federation, la Fédération départementale de la chasse, said: “We have just put a toolbox in place for mayors of these communes.
“Right now we are advising traps, using a cage to capture the boar with food, such as wheat. We then check daily, before sunrise, in case a domestic animal or pet has got caught. We are also advising authorities to shoot with a [particular rifle], which is less noisy and less dangerous to use near houses.”
Boar meat dangers
It comes as two hunters from Vallespir in the Pyrénées-Orientales were confirmed to have been infected with the trichinellose parasite after eating undercooked boar meat.
The department hunting federation told local newspaper La Dépêche: “Even though these cases are rare, the growth in boar populations and the change in our cooking habits can lead to a rise in infections.”
Trichinellosis, sometimes also called trichinosis, is contracted by eating raw or undercooked meat, from animals infected with the microscopic parasite trichinella.
Symptoms are “flu-like” but also include digestive problems such as nausea, vomiting and diarrheoa - and may not appear until one to three weeks after the affected meat has been eaten.
If wrongly or belatedly diagnosed, it can cause severe issues such as meningitis and heart problems, and can be fatal if left untreated.
Daniel Cunat, head of the department protection service, told news source France Bleu: “Thankfully, the two hunters from our department were treated in time, even though one of them is still suffering from muscle pain.”
The condition is rare, and has only been reported in around 30 people in France over the past decade.
Yet, health and safety agency Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l'alimentation, de l'environnement et du travail (Anses) still warns that it poses a considerable risk, especially for hunters who may hunt and cook meat without necessarily knowing its source.
It advised: “Boar [and similar meat] must be eaten completely cooked all the way through, at 71C. Freezing is not considered to be a way of making the meat safe.”