Tag Archives: Wild Boar

“Despair Dogs Me” or “A Tale of Two Hats”

Lesser men would have broken by now.

I don’t want this to be a sad post, I will just tell you what happened.

Yesterday I shrunk my hat. I had been out three times that day and when I finally got home I thought that my very old and much loved hat was a bit sweaty and dirty, so I threw it in the washing machine.

I should have read the washing instructions, “Wipe clean.”

This might not seem very important because I have two hats but only one of them has character.

HatsThese two hats are identical, they are both the same make and style and they were once the same colour. One of them is my hat and it has lived a life of adventure and has become a bit bleached by the sun.

Two years ago I was out shopping with a friend when I saw a copy of my hat in an end of line sale. “You must buy it,” she said, “One day you may lose your hat and I can’t imagine you without it.” So I did.

I kept it in my wardrobe and planned to wear it to weddings and funerals and maybe for the occasional court appearance but since then, well, I haven’t been arrested for ages and nobody has died, I have never worn it. I don’t really want to.

The good news is that today I defiantly wore my shrunken hat out. It was very windy and I found that it was quite an advantage to have a tight fitting hat.

Old hatI don’t know where this will end. Perhaps I am letting go of an old friend, gently.

My shoes are looking a bit shabby too.

Shabby

I expect that you would prefer to hear what Fizz and I have been up to for the last few days. We have been hunting Boars mostly.

Wild Boar have arrived on the farm. I knew that they were getting closer but a few day ago I stepped outside and came face to face with three of them at about two o’clock in the afternoon. They had just walked through my neighbours front garden and were standing in front of our house.

My landlord tells me that it is ten years since he saw a Boar on the farm but they are here now.

They always have been all around us but I have suspected that they were closing in for several weeks now. About three weeks ago I noticed fresh rooting just across the road from the house.

Rooting

RootingI didn’t really make anything of that at the time, we see a lot of that around here.

Then there was the extraordinary business of an animal eating all of the Arum Lilies.

Rooted ArumJust when I was thinking, “What sort of an animal would do that,” I stepped out of my front door and bumped right into them.

They have been here for a few weeks and I am pretty sure that they are here to stay now.

This is a superb opportunity for the naturalist in me, I can actually lie in bed and watch for them in the fields across from me. The trail camera is out.

It is not so good for everybody else. The Boar are not dangerous and they will always try and escape us unless..

A: You corner an animal and leave it no escape.

B: You or your dog attack their babies. They will defend their young and they are powerful animals.

In the wood that I owned in East Sussex a Rottweiller was killed by Boar just before I bought the land. It was an aggressive dog and the owner had taken to walking it in the wood at night to avoid other dog walkers. A Rottie is no match for a female boar with young. I don’t know what a Rottweiller normally weighs but my GSD was forty kilos and a mature female Boar would be about a hundred and twenty kilos and they are not pussy cats.

I have never considered them to be dangerous but then I have never tried to eat their babies. I am just not that stupid.

What it does mean is that there are places now where I cannot walk Fizz off lead (she is that stupid). The farm fields are still good as I can see everything around, tight and overgrown country lanes are out of bounds for a bit.

Fizz does a really good job of protecting me from Bears and Wolves, the very least that I can do in return is to protect her from herself.

Sentry DutyIs it still safe in the garden?

It’s safe.

Good girl.

I can walk her amongst the Boar on a lead. They will not attack me and if they come too close I will just pick her up. So we went up to the Bluebell woods to hunt for them.

WoodlandAt this point some sort of trained tracker dog would have been useful but I just had to go with what was available. In the video that I am about to show you (when You Tube has uploaded it) Fizz is really trying to find a Boar for me but she has never seen one and doesn’t realise how big they are. She keeps looking under leaves for them.

I am looking at how Boar relate to the Bluebells. One of the arguments put forward by their detractors is that Boar uproot and destroy bluebell woods and that they eat Bluebell bulbs. My old wood was a Bluebell wood with Wild Boar in it and I have been watching them for fifteen years. They have no interest in Bluebells.

Boar rooting.They root up the tracks that run through the Bluebells but they stay on the tracks and avoid the flowers. If they wanted to eat them these woods would be a feast for them. (This is where we filmed the young Boar recently, there are plenty of animals in this wood)

RootingBluebells are actually poisonous to most animals but then so are Arum Lilies.


We didn’t find any Boars but we did see some nice flowers.

Bluebell

BluebellThis characteristic one sided droop is often given as an identifying feature of our native Bluebells and it is but…

It is important to note that the flowers grow from all sides of the stem and this elegance is only a stage in their lives.

BluebellWhen the flowers first emerge the stem is completely upright and later as the flowers go to seed it straightens out again.

BluebellThis next flower is a genuine native Hyacinthoides non-scripta but just at a slightly inelegant stage of it’s development and that happens.

BluebellOn the edge of this wood the Arum Lilies are giving a fine display.

Arum maculatum

Arum maculatum

Arum maculatumEither the Boar here have no taste for this poisonous root or they just haven’t found them yet. I like this flower, I think that it is very beautiful and it is a shame to see it singled out for destruction but animals have to eat.

Arum maculatumOne of the nicest things about this wood is that the walk up here takes us through the farm fields. There is no danger of me being surprised by wild animals here and Fizz gets plenty of opportunity to run and play.

FarmI will leave you with a few images of Fizz preventing me from photographing a beautiful little Speedwell and otherwise doing what she does best 🙂

SpeedwellGet off me you stupid animal!

Stupid FizzThere is nothing in my pocket!

Stupid Fizz

Fizz

Fizz

Fizz

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The call of the Wild

Following on from our discovery of the Boar tracks in the wood, Fizz and I have been out hunting. We left the camera out for three nights and it returned one hundred and ninety videos. The pesky Fox above made around a hundred and sixty of those. At least it was good enough to show up in the daytime.

************

You may have noticed that I have been neglecting the blog in recent weeks. I am coming to a time when I have to think about my future and maybe leaving the farm. It kinda stifles my creativity but everything is fine.

I came here with the intention of taking a year off, following my divorce. Just to give me time to think and get rid of any negative thoughts that may have been bothering me. That worked pretty well, I feel happy in myself but my year off has stretched to sixteen months now.

You know that if I leave the farm, what else I will have to leave, don’t you? It stifles my creativity.

FizzI haven’t spoken to her about this yet. I am working on a plan that will give me another year here and if all goes well, I will leave next April.

Nothing is forever.

When I came here my plan was to take my year off and then seek to rehabilitate myself. Go down to the job centre and start a new life.

There isn’t any work around here, I would have to move into one of the local towns and then with luck find myself a job stacking shelves in a supermarket, something like that. It just isn’t ticking all the boxes for me. I am an adventurer and I am not that afraid of life. There must be something better than that, so I will go and find it.

It all stifles my creativity. But…

and it is a big BUT….

Today life is beautiful and we need to enjoy every moment of it, don’t think that we haven’t been doing just that.

FizzHow to track and capture Wild Boar

Hmmmm…
Boar Tracks

Ah ha!Hoglet tracks

This ought to work…CameraWatch closely….


The two adult animals in that video are mature sows and I believe they are the mothers of all the little hoglets that you are going to see running around.

There are two other large animals in this sounder, one male and one female. They are last years litter. The female will probably stay with this sounder but the male will leave in the summer. Males are solitary animals.

You can see the two juveniles in this next clip and in case you can’t tell the male is the stroppy one. He is a magnificent looking animal.


Normally we think of a sounder being composed of females and their offspring but the young males will stay with the sounder until they are about sixteen months old and they don’t start growing tusks until they are two years old.

He looks impressive but he is still a lot smaller than his mum as you will see in this next video.


These beautiful animals were kind to me and I got quite a few videos but that will do for now. I don’t want to bore you 🙂

I brought the camera in for the weekend, I might stick it back up there next week. I would quite like to have one more look at them.

I have to be very careful. The local rag printed a single letter condemning last weeks headlines as I expected and that was of course buried on the letters page. It also ran this little story.

ArrowWhat has been reported as an arrow is almost certainly a crossbow bolt, around here that is the favoured tool of poachers, it is powerful enough to kill and you don’t need a firearms licence.

The bottom line is  that you can get £6.50 a kilo for wild boar meat unbutchered. An adult female weighs around 100-120 kilos and 70% of that is meat. At that rate that’s about £450 for one of those mothers, say it’s less, a little one £200. There is an element here that see the Boar as fair game, in fact you would be daft not to take one (regardless of whether or not it is suckling young). Have you seen that film “Whiskey Galore?” Well the Boar are our local bounty. That is why there is so much hatred stirred up against them. When somebody kills one he is almost doing a public service (They eat children, remember)

I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked, “Aye Lad, seen any Boar yet?”

“No mate. Not a one, the old FC must have shot them all.” 🙂

Wild flowers:

We went up to photograph the Early Dog Violets and they were very nice…

Early Dog Violet

Early Dog Violet

Early Dog VioletOn the way up there we found these….

Town Hall Clock

Town Hall ClockThey are the first buds of what will soon become the beautiful and multi-faceted Town Hall Clock (Adoxa moschatellina)

Town Hall ClockBut today they are just buds.

Town Hall Clock

Town Hall ClockI know that some of you are still up to your necks in snow but here, everything is beautiful.

Let’s skip the Sweet Violets…

Sweet Violets

Sweet Violets“Woke up one morning half asleep,”

Lesser Celandine“With all my blankets in a heap,”

Lesser Celandine“And yellow roses gathered all around me.” (Lesser Celandine)

Lesser CelandineI’m just sitting watching flowers in the rain.

Wild Dafodill“Feel the power of the rain,”

Wild DafodillIn amongst the Lent Lilies I found my first Wood Anemones.

They don’t really like the rain.

Wood Anemone

Wood AnemoneSuddenly there isn’t any shortage of flowers. I don’t have enough time to post all off the species that I photographed.

The Elm trees flowered, I have been watching them closely and waiting for this.

Elm

ElmA lot of the stuff that I do is technical, it is because I want to have pictures of a particular stage in a plants development for my “Easy Wildflowers” blog and it isn’t always easy to understand why I get so excited.

I enjoyed seeing the sepal development on the Tussilago farfara (Coltsfoot)

ColtsfootSo my future is riding on a Horse. I have put my entire fortune on a magnificent mare called, “Bendy Peg Leg,” if anyone can do it then she can.

Assuming that she wins, this is what will happen.:

I will stay at the farm for one more year because I want to write Easy Wildflowers. There are not enough local wildflowers to keep me interested beyond a year. I will go homeless next April. I will put my belongings on my back and go into the wild. How long that I will stay in the wild?,  Ha!

I will take a tablet and a solar charger and I will blog from the wilderness and it will be great.

If the Horse loses? She is a sure thing. Bendy Peg Leg, I got it on good authority.

Umm…. Trust me, I know something about animals.

Fizz

Fizz

Fizz

A Walk in the Woods

C’mon, let’s go for a walk.

Sticky WillyThat’s Sticky Willy, (Goose Grass or Cleavers) growing in amongst the Ivy, I thought that it looked pretty.

Ivy-leaved SpeedwellThis is the tiny Ivy-leaved Speedwell.

Ivy-leaved Speedwell

Ivy-leaved Speedwell

Ivy-leaved Speedwell

Ivy-leaved SpeedwellI came along this track to photograph the Early Dog Violets but the wind was blowing so strongly today that I couldn’t really get any decent shots.

Early Dog VioletWe will have to come back to them on a quieter day. It doesn’t matter much because in a bit we are going to find another Violet,

Fizz want’s me to go out into the farm fields, I think that she has something planned and as that just happens to be on the way to a wood that I want to visit, I agree.

Up until today nectar has been in short supply and I have been searching these fields for signs of any flower. That has all changed.

All over the field are little splashes of colour. Small and isolated at first this is the start of one of nature’s Spring spectaculars.

Dandelion

Dandelion

Dandelion

DandelionSoon these fields will be a sea of yellow flowers and there will be more nectar than you can shake a stick at.

So this is what Fizz has been up to, she has brought me up here to see the Sheep.

SheepTen Sheep is all that we have left now, the other twenty six have gone to market. They were Blue Texels and they have been sold as breeding stock rather than stock cubes, they will be happy in their new home.

This was the scene from my kitchen window last Wednesday, very early in the morning.

SheepThere is a story about how those Sheep came to be in the orchard.

A few days earlier the farmer and a friend went up to the fields to get the sheep in. They drive around in Land Rovers, tooting their horns and driving the sheep before them but it hadn’t gone well, the animals panicked and ran everywhere and it was a right kerfuffle.

The farmers wife had seen me walking around in the field being followed by thirty six Sheep, so he asked me if I thought that I could bring them down and sure enough they all followed me right into the orchard, where he was able to sort them out.

He said that it was amazing and he had never seen anything like it and that from now on I was “The Pied Piper.” I think that it is pretty cool to surprise somebody who has been working with animals all of his life. (I just used my loaf 🙂 )

Plans

Whisper, whisper, whisper…..

This is the “treat” that Fizz has organised for me. She knows that I am down in the dumps about losing my Robin and she knows how much I like to have little animals eating out of my hand.

Ha Ha! Thank you ladies 🙂

Sheep

Sheep

SheepSo anyway, as I said, we are on our way to a wood that is up behind the fields. I am going to see the Lent Lilies.

On the way to the wood we found our second Violet of the day. These are Sweet Violets.

Sweet Violets

Sweet Violets

Sweet Violets

Sweet VioletsThey weren’t very perky it was not a very nice day today. There will be better pictures when the sun shines.

Sweet VioletThe leaves in that picture above are mostly Lesser Celandine, the Violets are growing through it.

That wasn’t very perky either, it likes the sun and closes when it’s overcast.

Lesser CelandineThis next picture is the leaf of the Sweet Violet. (a lovely little round thing with a scalloped edge)

Sweet Violet leafEventually we did get to the wood and the first thing that we saw were these signs of activity.

Boar tracksThis is where Wild Boar have been turning over the soil looking for food and all around were the sweetest little tracks.

Boar tracks

Boar tracksRegular readers will know that a few weeks ago I put a trail camera up here to look for Boar and as soon as I found them I retreated.

What we got on camera was four animals walking across the screen. That told me quite a lot. It told me that they were females, the males are solitary and also the time of year told me that they would be having their litters soon. I felt then, that it was best to leave them in peace and especially not to draw attention to them.

Now I am just going to “Go off on one!”

This is the front page of this weeks local rag.

The Yellow PressUnder the main headline it says,

“Now the boar have tasted blood, what’s stopping them attacking a young child?”

The first lines are,

“CHILDREN’S lives could be at risk, following wild boar attacks and the killing of new born lambs.”

The article continues on page three saying “They attack in packs. If one begins to chase, the rest will follow.”

In case you don’t know that is absolute garbage. Nobody has ever been hurt by a Wild Boar since they were reintroduced here more than twenty years ago. They have never attacked anybody, not even a scratch and they don’t hunt children in packs 🙂

This fear and hatred is what I have to protect my animals from.

People who live here in the Forest have the right as commoners to let their animals loose to roam around. It is a trade off, they avoid the expense of renting land but the sheep are uncared for and they will lose some.

These are lambs born in the wild.

Forest LambsI know that our Sheep require a lot of looking after. These free ranging Sheep wander onto the roads and they get involved in accidents, some of them don’t make it, they are not cared for but as I say, it is a trade off, they will lose a few but they will avoid the expense of owning or renting land.

At the very end of the article and deep inside the paper it says,

“The Forestry Commission has received reports of three to four new born lambs being killed by boar, but not “in packs” and there is no first hand witness testimony.”

If that is the case then why print such rubbish on the front page?

Boar tracksI think we should put the camera back up there now, for a bit.

Lent Lilies, I saved the best for last.

Narcissus pseudonarcissus, the Wild Daffodil (Doesn’t eat children)

Wild Daffodil

Wild Daffodil

Wild Daffodil

Wild Daffodil

Wild Daffodil

Wild DaffodilThank you Fizz.

Fizz🙂

Smell Fox and The Sky in his Pyjamas

Smell Fox is another name for the Wood Anemone and we will have more of them later, also a smelly Fox. First let me show you Fizz’s latest masterpiece.

The Sky in his PyjamasShe called this, “The Sky in his Pyjamas” and it was taken at dawn yesterday.

This is a video of a smelly Fox.

We have finished our Wild Boar hunt having got what we went after.

We picked up the camera yesterday with seventy five videos on the card and I really expected seventy five videos of a Fox eating until it popped but no…

We had about fifteen videos of the Fallow Deer.

Then we got this.

Let me just tell you what you are going to see, it is not very clear. If you are very quick you may see two Deer running in front of the Boar and triggering the camera, they are only in shot for about a second, then three female Boar walk through the wood in front of the camera. They don’t come into the light unfortunately but it is clear to me that they are Boar.

Why stop there? Well we haven’t exactly stopped, there is good reason to go back and I will tell you about that in a minute, we are just taking a break.

These animals are not safe!

I won’t endanger an animal for the sake of a photograph. There are not a lot of Wild Boar around here, they are being shot and that shooting is causing them to disperse and try and find safe places to live but it is a precarious existence.

Boar meat fetches about £6.50 a kilo (unbutchered) and about 70% of a Boar is meat. The average weight of a female is between 80 -120 kilos. To a shooter a little one (50 kg) is worth about £200. Some people are very, very keen to learn the locations of these animals.

There are no laws to protect these animals. With the landowners permission and the relevant gun licence anyone can shoot any boar at any time with anything they can lay their hands on. They are not safe.

We will go back because these animals will give birth in the spring, between them they could have twenty hoglets. They will live in a group called a sounder and the mothers can suckle each others young. If anything happens to one mother the others will take care of her hoglets. Infant mortality is about 50% in the first month so many of the little ones won’t make it but those that do will stay with the group for at least four months maybe the whole year. Despite any garbage that you may read to the contrary, Wild Boar have just one litter a year.

It would be nice to see some of this, don’t you think?

Enough Boar hunting for now, what about the pesky Sheep.

The Sheep are back in the fields but I don’t know for how long. We found two stuck in the hedge this morning.

Stuck SheepFizz found herself stuck in the hedge while I went to free the sheep…

Stuck Fizzand the sheep took off carrying half of the hedge with them.

Freed Stuck SheepWe are going to have to go and catch this Sheep and clean it up a bit, it looks camouflaged.

Tangled SheepAfter a couple of hours of chasing Sheep around the field, I remembered that I had stuck Fizz in the hedge and I went back and got her. She was none the worse for it.

Unstuck FizzSo, Smell Fox, the Wood Anemone flower doesn’t have any noticeable scent but the leaves smell musty, like a Fox.

Anemone nemorosa, The Wood Anemone

Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa)Greek legend has it that Anemos (The God of Wind) sent Anemones in the springtime to tell of his coming. An old name for this flower is Windflower, Pliny the Elder (Roman author of Naturalis Historia) wrote that “The flowers do not open unless the wind blows.” He was wrong. The flowers do not open unless the sun shines.

Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa) Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa)   Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa)   Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa) The Wood Anemone is an early spring flower. It usually flowers in March and lasts until the Bluebells are ready to flower in April.

The little wood that I used to own was both a Bluebell wood and an Anemone wood. The flowers grew through each other and in March the forest floor was white with little to show of the Bluebell display that was soon to follow.

Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa)The Wood Anemone is an animated flower, it closes at night.

Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa)It opens in the morning when it feels the warmth and then it twists and turns throughout the day to follow the sun. It is a wonderful thing to spend a day in such a wood watching the movement of the flowers.

Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa)

Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa)

Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa)

Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa)The flower has no petals, it generally has six or seven, white sepals but sometimes as many as ten. It has multiple stamens.

Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa)The leaves are divided into three deeply lobed and toothed leaflets.

Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa)Nectar: You will read on a lot of web sites that the Wood Anemone does not produce nectar when in fact it does. The reason for this confusion is simply because it was only proven in 2013 when scientists published a paper in the Journal, “Organisms Diversity and Evolution” (September 2013) They observed the Large Bee Fly (Bombylius major) nectaring on Anemone nemorosa and discovered that the flower does indeed have nectaries deep within the corolla. The large Bee Fly has a very long tongue.

Many websites will not have updated that information and so confusion reigns on the internet, as always. Anyway nothing has changed if you have a short tongue.

Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa)Pollination and seed production are not essential to the Wood Anemone, in fact, I read that most of the seed produced is sterile. The plant spreads from it’s roots (rhizomes). Unlike the Bluebell it can spread very rapidly to colonise a wood.

Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa)

Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa) Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa)   Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa)   Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa) Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa)Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Ranunculales

Family: Ranunculaceae

Genus: Anemone

Species: Anemone nemorosa

Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa)Wildflowers in winter.

Sus scrofa, a sober passion

There are Wild Boar in The Forest of Dean. That may have been part of the reason why I came here. I know the boar.

About twelve years ago my then wife and I bought a small plot of woodland in East Sussex. We looked at lots of woodland and we chose that one because there were Wild Boar on the land. East Sussex has a thriving boar population.

So this post is about me and the Wild Boar.

Wild Boar

My first encounter:

Not long after we had bought the wood we were down there having a look at our new property, it was a blistering hot summer day and I was loving it so much that I decided to stay there and sleep the night and so my wife went home without me.

I wasn’t prepared, I didn’t have any camping gear or anything like that, I just wanted to experience the night. I made myself a little nest in the leaf litter and lay down to sleep.

I woke up just after midnight. I could hear this pattering sound on the leaf litter and I thought it was rain and as I lay there on the floor I could hear it getting closer. Eventually I realised that it wasn’t rain, it was wild animals coming through the wood toward me. I lay as quiet as a mouse.

The boar surrounded me. I couldn’t see them but I could hear them just in front of me, on my left and on my right. It was  fantastic lying there and listening to these big animals rustling about and grunting at each other and then something changed.

It was nothing to do with the boar, I have known them for a long time now and they have never, ever shown me any kind of aggression, it was just me. I could hear them down behind my feet and they were still in front of me. I was lying on the floor and I didn’t feel comfortable any more. I decided to get up and drive them away.

I stood up and shouted, “Hey, Hey!” and I was met with a cacophony of grunts and squeals from all around but that was all, they didn’t run. They just carried on with their foraging and ignored me.

My thought was, “Don’t make them mad”

My nerve cracked and I was scared. There were no suitable trees to climb but there was an old coppice stool. When a tree is coppiced enough times it grows into a ring of small trunks and I got inside this circle of trees. The only weapon I had to defend myself with was my camera and so I started firing off the flash to try and drive them away.

They didn’t bother about the crazy man. They just carried on about their business and slowly  ambled past my camp and off into the distance and eventually my courage started to return and I began to think, “What a wonderful experience, I am all right, no bones broken and I haven’t been ate.” I did check the time, an hour had passed since I first heard them. I was wondering how long till dawn.

Wild Boar

I didn’t know the boar at all back then, now I know that it was a sounder, composed of females and given the time of year, their almost full grown young. I wasn’t ever in any danger.

The next weekend I returned to the same spot and I built a platform in that coppice stool that I could sleep on. I desperately wanted to repeat that experience but I didn’t really want to be on the floor next time.

CampFor the next nine years this was going to be my second home. I slept here most weekends, summer and winter. I fed the animals, that is to say that I baited my camp and the animals in the wood came to know this. I hung bird feeders in the trees. Squirrels were the ones that took most advantage and I became adopted by them.

Grey squirrelI would often wake up with a Squirrel right in front of my face, watching me and waiting for it’s breakfast.

Grey SquirrelThere was a Badger sett and they would come into my camp. They don’t mind camera flash, it doesn’t seem to bother them.

BadgerThere were all kinds of animals, it was my little wild life paradise but this is a post about the boar.

Wild BoarWhen we first bought the wood encounters with boar were very rare. Over the next few years I became an expert boar tracker and encounters became much more frequent and my expertise just grew and grew. Then I realised that it wasn’t expertise at all, there were just a lot more boar.

When I say that I know the boar, I really do, I spent years with them and I can see a problem. They are big animals and they eat a lot and at some point that is going to have a detrimental effect on other species but I don’t believe that shooting guns at them is an effective means of control. That is because I know them.

So on with the stories.

Max:

I had a dog. I didn’t normally take him to the wood with me because wild life and dogs don’t mix well but every so often and especially if I was going to be away for more than one night, I would take him.

With Max along I couldn’t sleep up my tree, I had to take a tent so that I could confine him at night. That was for his own safety, a dog is no match for a boar, not even Max.

MaxSo this was a few years in and there were getting to be quite a few boar about. Max and I were down for two nights of male bonding and love.

I had only taken bedding for one, I thought that he could sleep on the floor and on the first night we had a bit of a dispute about ownership of the bed. I found myself sitting outside of the tent in the middle of the night listening to him snore.

MaxI heard the boar coming through the wood towards us and that was okay, Max was fast asleep.

I stood up and lit a cigarette and I walked about a bit. Much as I loved seeing them this wasn’t a good night for an encounter so I was just letting them know that I was here.

I walked around a bit and cleared my throat, “Hey stupido boar, big man in the wood, go the other way.”

They didn’t pay me any attention, they just kept on coming. They came too close and I began to get concerned for the dog. I got into the tent, zipped the door up and took a good hold of his collar and then I turned on all the lights I had.

As soon as I put the lights on there were loud squeals and the boar ran. They had only just realised that I was there. So much for their super senses, sometimes they can be really dumb.

Max jumped up with a start, looked about, then lay back down and went back to sleep. Good Dog, nothing to worry about.

MaxOn the second night when I heard the boar I banged pots and pans together. (Sorry neighbours, that was me) sometimes subtle doesn’t work.

Comedy:

One night I was sleeping up my tree and I awoke. It was about two o’clock in the morning and it was a still and beautiful night.

I love being in the forest at night, it is so calm. I really think that it does something for your soul and I feel a great attachment to the forest, any forest.

I made myself a cigarette and smoked it and I just listened to the Tawny Owls and looked at the moon. I thought that I might go for a walk and see if there was anything about. My army boots were hanging in the tree beside me so I shuffled about getting them on, checked all my gear and then I jumped down out of my tree.

The moment my boots hit the ground the wood exploded. There were boar running everywhere. They were going from right to left and from left to right and squealing and kicking up all sorts of racket.

It took them quite a while to compose themselves and wander off and it took me a while to stop laughing.

I know what had happened. The boar were in my camp when I awoke. Not knowing where I was they froze. Animals will do that when they sense danger and just hope that it goes away. Boar can’t look up, they can’t lift their necks, it is just the way that they are built. As soon as I hit the floor they panicked and broke cover. They had stayed frozen for quite a long time while I got myself ready.

Wild BoarI have had so many encounters with boar. I have come face to face with large males in the middle of the day and I have often surprised and startled them accidentally. I have also had many night time encounters. I have seen them running through the wood and they are fast and graceful. I think of them as being more like deer than domestic pigs.

There is a wild life park in Kent with a celebrity Wild Boar called Boris. I went to see him once and felt really sorry for him. He did look more like a domestic pig than the wild animals that ran through my woods.

BorisWell maybe not that different he just needs to lose a bit of weight.

Willd Boar

The present day:

I came to the Forest of Dean with my eyes wide open. I knew that there was a Badger cull and a Deer cull and I knew that they were culling the Boar.

In East Sussex nobody had minded the boar, people didn’t really see them and there was no fuss. Here everybody has an opinion and it divides communities. Local papers keep the topic alive and boar are in the paper almost every week.

MediaI couldn’t figure it out at first but I understand now.

Culling the boar isn’t an option in East Sussex because local people would have to fund it. In the last Badger cull they estimated that it had cost £4000 for each animal shot. In East Sussex if somebody were to knock on a door and ask for a few thousand pounds to help cull the boar they would be told, “They don’t really bother me, sorry.”

Here the Forestry Commission are paying and they want to cull the boar so it is an option.

It is an issue that causes great upset to some local people and I really understand and feel their hurt.

Last year the FC said that there were 535 boar in the forest and they wanted to kill 135 to bring them to a manageable number.

This year they want to kill a further 600. They are trying to kill all of them.

It is not all right. There is a lot of deception. The local paper recently printed a story saying that there should be no closed season because boar have four litters a year and there is no particular time of year when there should be a closed season. That isn’t true. It is possible to force intensively reared pigs to have four litters a year but you have to force feed them. Boar have one litter a year, I have watched them raise them many times.

Wild BoarI don’t think that there is anything that I can do about it. I am very sorry that so many animals are going to be killed but that is what the FC do, they are not conservationists or wild life managers they are foresters.

Anyway they are doing me a kind of favour. Shooting guns at the boar won’t work and they are dispersing the animals.

Boar are not like Badgers, tied to a sett, they run away from loud noises. The FC are just driving them out of the forest. I was recently warned to be careful going into the woods behind the farm because Boar have been seen there. I have seen boar tracks down by the Badger sett, they are all around us, I don’t need to go into the forest to see them.

The damage has already been done.

The real problem with the boar is not how quickly they multiply it is how good they are at evading people. By the time people realise that there may be wild boar around they are already well established.

Wild BoarThe FC were the only people with the resources and the organisation to mount proper control of the boar and they should have been contained in the forest and managed with contraception. They have been driven out into areas where their numbers can not be managed.

Just like in my wood in East Sussex years ago, when I became “more expert” at seeing Wild Boar, local people are going to become much more expert at seeing Wild Boar

That is good, I like seeing wild animals but I think that in the future conservationists are going to realise that you can have too much of a good thing.

Then perhaps we can re-introduce Wolves. That will be great and it is the only thing that will work now.

I hope that they eat the Forestry Commission first.

The Nagshead

This is just a brief introduction to one of my favourite places The Nagshead,

It is not a pub although it sounds like it might be. It is an RSPB nature reserve that is within easy walking distance of my home. It is also a very good reason to visit The Forest of Dean for your holidays.

P1180137It is part of my playground and one of the loveliest places that I know.

P1180120These are Fallow Deer seen on my last visit about two weeks ago. That black and white rump is unmistakeable. These pictures were taken quite early in the morning when the light was very poor, so please excuse the quality.

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P1180135Now I have a confession to make, although I have visited this reserve several times since I arrived in the forest I still haven’t photographed any birds here.

There is no absence of birds though, I am often mobbed by the small mixed flocks of tits and the sound of woodpeckers drumming and Tawny Owls hooting mixes in with the bird song to create an atmosphere that my pictures cannot relate. It is great.

5It is a good place to look for fungi.

7 This is Hairy Curtain Crust a small bracket fungus.

8This next one is Blushing Bracket, so called because if you bruise the underside it flushes red.

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10Wild Boar roam the forest freely but they are becoming very shy because the Forestry Commission shoot them.

11I will have to crop that picture to show you what I have just seen.

12There has been an issue here with people feeding the Boar. It is a problem because the animals loose their fear of humans, the FC are doing all that they can to set that issue right.

I should come clean here and tell you that I am strongly opposed to the Wild Boar cull. I do believe that they need to be managed but shooting guns at them isn’t the way to do it. They are just dispersing them, they are driving them out of the forest. The FC are the only people with the resources and organisation to be able to manage these animals and once out of the forest they are beyond control. The end result is many more Boar in places where they shouldn’t be. They are a forest animal.

The FC like their guns. They don’t shoot them in the reserve and obviously they don’t shoot them once they are out of the forest. They don’t really shoot very many of them because they can’t find them, the Boar are very evasive and they just run away.

I like to see wild animals in the forest.

So that is my brief introduction to the Nagshead. It is a smashing place and I will be spending a lot of time here this summer, I hope that you will come with me.

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