Once common in woodland across the country, the wild boar declined in Britain as a result of hunting and habitat destruction and degradation. In the wild it went extinct by around the 13th century.

However, wild boar meat continued to be farmed and recently escapees have allowed for wild populations to become reestablished. In the beginning of this millennium the animals were confirmed to be roaming Scotland, having either escaped from farms or perhaps deliberately released by guerrilla rewilders.

The most famous of these populations can be found in the Forest of Dean, where they have become somewhat of a tourist spot for nature enthusiasts, as well as attracting hunters. Their wild population is estimated by some to be around 5,000 and they continue to breed very successfully.

Wild boar are an important soil ecosystem engineer. They plough through woodland leaf litter, upturning earth as they search for food, such as tubers and grubs. By breaking up the soil, the seeds of wildflowers, shrubs and trees are given space to germinate. Moreover, disturbed ground offers excellent burrowing opportunities for many species and the exposed buried seeds provide food for hungry birds during the leanest months.

Steve Micklewright from the woodland charity Trees for Life has been pleasantly surprised by their impact on his woods. “In woodlands they do an amazing job. They rootle around; they disturb the ground; they make it more diverse and in more of a natural state,” he said.

Despite being a native animal, wild boars are yet to be officially acknowledged as such, which is hampering the management of the animal. Micklewright acknowledged that they can cause an inconvenience to farmers by digging up agricultural land, but said “cat is out of the bag in Scotland” when it comes to wild boar, so they need to be controlled properly and shot under licence if causing nuisance.

“Scotland should bite the bullet on this, recognise them as a native species, give them the protections a native species has, and give those who have a problem with wild boar the ability to manage them properly,” he said. “At the moment, people can just go out and shoot them. They need intelligent management. As time goes on and the population increases, there is a huge opportunity for sustainable hunting. In Italy, for example, there is a whole culture of sustainable boar hunting over there.”

He went on to say that there are opportunities for boar to be enjoyed as a “wild food” and become a Scottish delicacy, such as venison.

Recently, wild boar have been getting bad press, with multiple sensational stories of in the Telegraph of ‘ferocious boars causing chaos’ in Europe. Such extraordinary claims seem absent of much evidence and is contradictory to the majority of expert opinion.

Chantal Lyons, an environmental science policy expert who is writing a book on wild boar, has been studying human-boar interactions around the Forest of Dean.

She said that boar were in fact less dangerous than pet dogs. “Wild boar have now been back in the UK for more than 30 years, and we have just two recorded incidents of injury,” she said. The two injuries mentioned were minor: one was bruising after being charged by a female sow, and the other was a man who had a fingertip pad bitten off.

She continued to say that “…it would be good to have boar back more widely, as they are ecosystem engineers that can breathe life back into our woodlands.”

“By rooting, boar can break up monocultures like bracken, create more favourable soil conditions, and allow a greater diversity of vegetation to grow. In the Forest of Dean, I sometimes notice oak seedlings growing in old boar rootings, and I wonder if jays have planted them there, because the soil is so good, so easy to plant acorns in.”

Boars do not go rampaging around eating sheep, she said. “They will certainly eat sheep they find dead, as they are omnivorous and enthusiastic carrion-eaters. However, I think it is extremely unlikely that they have actively killed sheep, which are big animals – I suspect they were already dead. If the sheep-killing was happening with the frequency it appears to from the claims made, you’d think someone would’ve been able to get footage of it by now.”

Ecologically, wild boars are an asset to most British woodland and should be seen as such. Hopefully, the government will extend recognition of these fabulous animals as native in the near future so expansion and management of their populations can take place.


At Natural World Fund, we are passionate about stopping the decline in our wildlife.

The declines in our wildlife is shocking and frightening. Without much more support, many of the animals we know and love will continue in their declines towards extinction.

When you help to restore a patch of degraded land through rewilding to forests, meadows, or wetlands, you have a massive impact on the biodiversity at a local level. You give animals a home and food that they otherwise would not have had, and it has a positive snowball effect for the food chain.

We are convinced that this is much better for the UK than growing lots of fast-growing coniferous trees, solely to remove carbon, that don’t actually help our animals to thrive.

This is why we stand for restoring nature in the UK through responsible rewilding. For us, it is the right thing to do. Let’s do what’s right for nature!

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