Friday, 13 November 2015

Call for end to hunting curbs as wild boars rampage across Italy

The number of wild boar in Italy has almost doubled over the past decade until about a million animals roam the country, killing livestock and destroying crops

Isla Binnie Castell’Azzara 
Sunday 8 November 2015

Dogs and men prick up their ears at a rustle in the undergrowth, a rifle cracks and a big black boar thuds to the ground, killed by a single bullet.

The hunters of Castell’Azzara, Tuscany, celebrate as they heave the 154lb sow and a handful of other slain animals back to their lodge to be skinned, but their haul barely dents Italy’s soaring wild boar population.

Extinct across much of the country by the end of the 1800s, the number of wild boar in Italy has almost doubled over the past decade and there are now about a million roaming the country, environmental and agricultural associations say.

Rampaging boar, along with other wild animals such as river rats, have caused €100m (£71m) of damage by destroying crops, killing livestock and causing road accidents in the past year, according to the Italian farmers’ organisation, Coldiretti.

Isolated accounts of attacks on people have also fuelled concern. A man died in the northern town of Iseo in May, apparently bitten by a boar, and a pensioner was reportedly attacked and killed while walking his dog in Sicily.

“If some unfortunate person comes across a sow with piglets, his life is at risk,” said Castell’Azzara native Francesco Vicarelli, 49, after taking part in the braccata (group hunt with dogs) on the first day of the new winter season.

Tuscany, whose largely unspoilt countryside conceals a higher concentration of boar than any other part of Italy, faces an “emergency” according to environment minister Silvia Velo. The animals were brought mainly from eastern Europe during the 1950s to facilitate hunting, which is as passionately defended by its practitioners as it is opposed by environmentalists. But hunting’s popularity has dwindled and hunters say they can only combat the burgeoning boar population if current curbs are loosened.


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