WATCH: Wild boar spotted in Staffordshire 'are first in county'
Wild boar spotted roaming in a neighbourhood are the first ever recorded on the loose in Staffordshire, it has been claimed.
The news comes after Staffordshire County Council confirmed the mammals had been spotted in Burntwood, and warned residents to be careful.
Now the NFU has said the wild boar could pose a "serious biosecurity concern" for local farmers.
Several videos of a boar and piglets roaming the Chase Terrace area of Burntwood have been shared on social media in recent weeks, including one showing the animals crossing busy road Stables Way.
The animals have also been spotted in back gardens in Burntwood and a pensioner reported being charged at while walking on a footpath.
WATCH the wild boar by the roadside here:
After being extinct in the UK for around 300 years, there are now thought to be as many as 2,000 wild boar living freely across the UK.
The population steadily grew in forests in Kent, Sussex and Gloucestershire after some of the animals were released and escaped from farms and zoos in the 1980s and 90s. There are not thought to be any established groups in Staffordshire.
One of the largest groups is in the Forest of Dean, where a cull is being carried out in a bid to reduce the population from around 1,600 to closer to 400. However sows' ability to have litters with up to 14 piglets and the lack of natural predators makes population control difficult.
Wild boar are listed on the Government's Dangerous Wild Animals Act and it is legal to shoot them to control population or deal with nuisance boars, although best practice recommends avoiding killing sows with dependent young.
There have been no confirmed sightings of wild boar living freely in Staffordshire until this year, but in 2016 wild boar were recorded on camera in Clun Valley in Shropshire
African Swine Fever
Robert Newbery, regional director for NFU, said: “While at this stage we cannot confirm reports of wild boar on Cannock Chase or in Staffordshire, with African Swine Fever in mainland Europe, any feral pigs and wild boar present a serious biosecurity concern for farmers in the region.
"African Swine Fever is a serious, contagious and fatal disease for all pigs, wild or domestic.
"The rapidly increasing feral boar population in the UK could easily become infected, as has happened in Belgium.
"In the Forest of Dean numbers have increased by more than 1,000 in just five years.
"An uncontrolled population in Staffordshire would a real cause for concern.
"Feral boar are increasingly abandoning natural diets and being fed by some members of the public.
"African Swine Fever could enter the UK, from feral boar eating pork-based products, from infected countries.
“This poses an unacceptable risk to the UK pig industry. The NFU has supported calls to Defra to revisit and update its action plan for sustainably managing the population of feral wild boar on the ground, in light of their potential to spread disease.”
'They must have been let go'
Derek Crawley, the chairman of Staffordshire Mammal Society, said this is the first time wild boar have been spotted in the county.
He said: "As far as we're concerned there have never been any wild boar within Staffordshire, and we are convinced that these animals have been let go by somebody.
"They tend to use their noses to turn up the turf, we would have seen that in the area if they'd been here before as it's popular with dog walkers.
"Wild boar tend to be farmed, sometimes they don't make enough money from them so they let them go.
"It's classed as a dangerous wild animal so you need to have additional protection such as double fencing to keep them.
"On the whole they tend to run the other way, generally they're not aggressive animals.
"The concern is whether or not dogs try to get too close to a mum with piglets, as that's when the female will be protective.
"Generally there aren't many incidents of people getting attacked as such.
"People should make themselves known if they spot a wild boar, then back away from it and there shouldn't be an issue.
"We don't know yet how big the population is, until we carry out a survey.
"We will be working with the council rangers to try and establish what the population is and try and work out what is best for them."
Wild boar facts
- The wild boar is the ancestor of the domestic pig and is found across Europe and Asia, as far east as Japan.
- Boar have poor eyesight but an extremely strong sense of smell, relying on their nose to find food and detect danger, and can live for around 14 years.
- Most boar live in groups, known as sounders, made up of females and their young. Adult males tend to live alone and only come together with females to mate.
- A native UK species, boar were hunted to extinction in the Middle Ages. However the animals were brought back into the country for farming in the 1980s and started living in the wild again after escaping or being released from breeders and zoos.
- The population grew steadily and there are now hundreds of wild boar living in UK woodlands. There are established populations on the Kent/East Sussex and Dorset/Devon borders and in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, while smaller groups exist in south Wales, and the Scottish Highlands and are dotted around elsewhere. The largest numbers - of around 1,600 - are in the Forest of Dean, where they are being culled.
- There have been no confirmed sightings of wild boar living free in Staffordshire until this year, but in 2016 there were confirmed sightings of boar in the Clun Valley in Shropshire.
- Population control is difficult due to wild boar having no natural predators and the species' prolific breeding. Thus it is legal to shoot wild boar all year round.
- Wild boar are shy and generally nocturnal. In most cases they pose no threat and will flee if they see humans, however they can become aggressive if they feel threatened. Females with their young should be given a wide berth.
- Adult wild boar have grey-brown fur, while piglets are a lighter ginger-brown colour with stripes on their coat for camouflage. Adult males have sharp tusks and weigh 120-150kg, while females are slightly lighter.
- The foragers are primarily vegetarian animals but aren't fussy eaters and may capitalise on any food source they find. That includes eggs and baby animals such as lambs.
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