Europe is experiencing a hot boar summer. Why? For one thing, it’s crazy hot there, the kind of heat wave that necessitates kiddie pools under tables at restaurants. For another, wild boars are reportedly ransacking the Continent.
The Guardian published a piece on Tuesday describing all the boar mayhem. Long known to be a hearty, invasive species, capable of thriving most anywhere, boars have recently expanded their domain to metropolitan centers including Barcelona, Berlin, and Rome (and even Houston and Hong Kong). This phenomenon is reportedly owed to increased urban sprawl and the accumulation of enticing waste around city limits. On top of which global boar populations have risen since the 1980s because of warmer weather, declining predators, and increased crop yield, The Guardian reports. And apparently boars become sexually mature when they reach about 77 pounds, meaning eating lots of processed food trash is good for fertility.
Barcelona experienced the height of wild-boar-related incidents in 2016, when police reported 1,187 phone calls citing hogs running loose through the city, eating trash, fighting dogs, causing traffic, and generally inciting chaos. In response, the city has become the gold standard in wild-boar capture, elimination, and prevention, with a team of veterinary scientists from the Autonomous University of Barcelona going so far as to develop a heat map to predict where boars are likely to turn up.
Berlin has gone for a more straightforward approach. The German capital commissions a dedicated force of street hunters too “pick off” boars one by one. So far, they’ve shot 3,000 of the wild animals within city limits. And Rome has faced its own recent infestation. The author of the report, Berhard Warner, writes, “In Rome, where I live, boars rooting through uncollected piles of trash have come to symbolise the decline of the city.”
Aside from mucking up municipal infrastructure, boars present the significant drawback of carrying many diseases that could be transmitted to humans, including hepatitis E and influenza A. In response to fears of contagion, most acutely of African Swine Fever, countries across Europe have erected pig borders. Warner writes, “Hog-tight barriers have already been erected along the French/Belgian, Danish/German and Bulgarian/Romanian borders in the past year.”
Boars can also precipitate terrible road accidents; it’s estimated they cause thousands annually. To add to these horrors, they eat the eggs of endangered turtles and uproot vegetation, in fact, they destroy an estimated $110 million worth of crops per year. And they’re smart, capable animals, extremely difficult to capture. Wildlife conservation expert Billy Higginbotham writes that “Wild pigs can run up to 30 mph. They can jump over fences less than 3ft high and have ‘climbed’ out of pig traps with walls 5 to 6ft high.”
In other words, Europe’s boar situation is very bad and only bound to continue as summer fades. I count my lucky stars New York City’s urban bores don’t literally eat my trash.