Description: Large muscular body, heavy-set at shoulders; large head with tusks in both mature males and females (male tusks are proportionally larger).
Mature males have Mohican hair ‘ridge’ down centre line from head to mid-back. They have relatively short legs. Colour can vary greatly; dark grey, brown, sandy brown and black (never a mixture of colours).
Both sexes have tusks; the lower tusks are very sharp and in males may exceed 20cm in length (Inside Ecology, 2019: https://insideecology.com/2017/10/26/britains-wild-boar/ ).
Young are striped ‘humbugs’, losing stripes at 4-5 months; young can be observed throughout the year.
Size: Adult boar can measure >200cm in length and reach up to 1m at the shoulder (Inside Ecology, 2019:).
Weight: Adult males weighing up to 150kg (Inside Ecology, 2019:).
Lifespan: 15-20 years.
Breeding: Sexual maturity occurs at 10-18 months (or approx. 30 kg). Boars have an extended breeding season, peaking in November to January with births in spring & summer. There is 1, possibly 2 litters per year with 3-7 piglets per litter. (Reference Massei et al. 2017 https://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/GiovannaMassei.pdf/$FILE/GiovannaMassei.pdf )
Prior to giving birth, sows search out a ‘farrowing nest’ in dense cover and close to food. During this time, a group of females remain with the sow (Inside Ecology, 2019:).
Habitat: Woodland, farmland.
Diet: Eats a variety of vegetation, roots, seeds and fruits. Will also eat carrion, young mammals, eggs and chicks of ground-nesting birds.
General Ecology: Boars are largely nocturnal. With the exception of the breeding season, male boars are usually solitary, however, young males can form groups when they are initially pushed out by the females. Sows live in groups with their offspring and are generally led by the oldest female (Inside Ecology, 2019:).
Distribution and main sites: In England, boar probably became extinct in the 13th century and animals imported from continental Europe were released in the first part of the 17th century. These did not become successfully re-established in the wild, most likely because of persecution as agricultural pests. In the latter part of the 20th century, farmers began keeping wild boar in enclosures and a number of animals escaped during the storms of 1987 when over 1 million trees blew down in the south of England. Those boar and other subsequent escapees have since become established. (Reference: Trees for Life (2019) https://treesforlife.org.uk/forest/wild-boar/)
Now present in Kent, East Sussex, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Gwent, possibly Devon and parts of Scotland. Sightings recorded in other geographical areas too. (Maps are based on expert advice, as of 2007. Some species ranges may have changed in the time since. The Mammal Society is currently in the process of updating them.)
One record in Shropshire in the south east of the county. Further sightings likely on the southern border.
Local Survey history: None.
Conservation Status: Least concern with population and distribution increasing.
Threats: As wild boars act as ecosystem engineers, and this can cause intense conflict with humans. This has led to increased culling and unregulated hunting which appears to have slowed the expansion in range and population of the species.
Main recording methods: direct sightings, tracks, uprooting turf.
Wild boar tracks are distinctive looking as they are hoofed, and only deer species have similar shaped footprints. Up to 7cm in width can vary in size.
There can be some confusion between wild boar prints and sheep and goat, particularly in farmland habitats. Unlike the tracks of other even toed ungulates it is the dew claws, which in soft ground are impressed even when walking slowly, that serve to identify wild boar tracks.
A distinctive field sign left by wild boar is shown in the photograph. Wild boar like to uproot grass verges in search of worms and bugs to forage upon.
Text: Craig Baker
© Shropshire Mammal Group 2020