Wild Boar

The Unsung Hero of Rewilding

written byMatt Davies Co-Founder, Mossy Earth

Matt Davies

The Iberian Wild Boar (Sus scrofa. castilianus) is a bane of our tree planters, an uncanny forager, an unsung rewilder, and a winner of climate change.

Read on to learn more…

The Uncanny Forager

Wild Boar typically grow to a length of 120cm, a height of 65cm and a weight of 70 – 90kg, but on occasions can reach up to 150kg. Despite their weight, they are agile and can reach speeds of up to 50 kilometers per hour (31 mph) over short distances. They are also excellent swimmers and are renowned among hunters for their intelligence.

What they lack in vision, they make up for in a strong sense of smell and sound, which they use to great effect to detect buried food up to 100m and to evade their predators. They have long thick black hairs on their body and mane, which when faced with danger, they bristle to appear larger and more imposing in front of their adversary.

A wild boar in a forest with its young
A wild boar in a forest with its young

Wild boar behaviour

The wild boar is usually sedentary during the day preferring to move around at night and in the early hours of the morning. They can travel considerable distances from 2 – 15km, normally using the same routes and passes. Except for the older males, which are solitary, wild boars live and roam in close-knit, well-organized groups, also known as sounders of around 20, and are led by sows.

A large black wild boar in a watering hole
A wild boar hydrating at a watering hole.

Habitat

The “Javali” like to live in the “Mata”, the large areas of dense undergrowth that surround our woodlands in Portugal. These were once fields that over the years have become covered in gorse, scrub oaks, broom, brambles, and other bushes.

Wild boars graze throughout the summer and in the autumn gorge on fallen acorns, roots, seeds, fruits, and lay waste to farmers' crops. When the ground is soft, from autumn through to late spring, they like to rootle – turning over clods of earth with their snouts, in search of roots and rhizomes, earthworms, and other invertebrates.

Thick bramble and bushes make for an excellent wild boar habitat
Thick bramble and bushes make for an excellent wild boar habitat

The unsung hero of rewilding

Wild boars are the unsung heroes of rewilding. Their excessive rootling exposes bare soil, allowing pioneer plants and so-called ‘weeds’ to colonise. Soil exposed by rootling is also swiftly colonised by solitary bees, and the over-turned clods of earth kick-start the creation of anthills which, in turn, provide food for local birdlife.

As disappointing as it is to find some of our young trees uprooted by wild boar, we know that this is all part of the intricate workings of a healthy ecosystem.

A wild boar rootling for acorns in an oak woodland.
A wild boar rootling for acorns in an oak woodland.

The rage of a wild boar is able to spoil more than just one wood.

George Herbert

Winner of climate change

As a conservationist, it’s rare yet refreshing to say that boars are not in any immediate danger. Their numbers across Europe have been surging as a result of global warming and the large-scale cultivation of maize and rapeseed for biofuel.

Recent warmer winters have reduced the death rate of older boars and of young ones born late in the year. What’s more, the rise in CO2 levels has intensified the sunlight and led trees to produce more acorns and chestnuts – a high-energy delicacy for boars, whose reproduction naturally increases with the amount of food available.

With large areas of agricultural land in Europe devoted to cultivating maize and rapeseed (a fond staple food of the boar), farmers have inadvertently created veritable supermarkets where the boar can gorge themselves protected and unperturbed.

The sun sets over a cornfield. Such fields are veritable supermarkets where the wild boar can gorge

Sources & further reading

Peer Reviewed Research Section
  1. Rewilding the Scottish Highlands: Do Wild Boar, Sus scrofa, Use a Suitable Foraging Strategy to be Effective Ecosystem Engineers? - Restoration EcologyExternal linkIcon Peer Review
  2. Wild boars are gaining ground – Climate change boosts population growth - Science DailyExternal linkIcon Peer Review
  3. Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) populations in Europe - European Landowners OrganisationExternal linkIcon Peer Review
  4. The Role of Rewilding in Landscape Design for Conservation - Great Landscape Ecology reportsExternal linkIcon Peer Review
  5. Wild Boar in Portugal - SecemExternal linkIcon Peer Review

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