Forest of Dean Wild Boar

Life’s Never A Boar In The Forest Of Dean!

Following an absence of more than 300 years, wild boars have made a definite comeback to the Forest of Dean and other parts of southern England. Nobody knows exactly how these creatures have come to start populating this rural part of Gloucestershire once again, but there are several rumours which range from a controlled and strategically planned release to the animals having been kept as farm livestock and escaped on their way to the abattoir. Whatever the reason, it would now appear that this new addition to the Forest’s fauna is here to stay and as the population has increased markedly over the years, efforts have had to be taken to control the numbers already.

Just call me Gerald! Forest of Dean Wild Boar

Wild Boars Used To Run Wild

The original wild boar species, which was indigenous to the UK, is believed to have become extinct as far back as the 13th century. The animal was re-introduced into the country during the 17th century, but as it was viewed as such a pest, particularly to agriculture, it was hunted to extinction once more. From then on, reigning monarchs made several attempts to re-establish the population, primarily for hunting, but these attempts always proved to be futile.

It was not until the last couple of decades and especially the last 4 or 5 years that wild boar were successfully able to breed in the wild and strengthen their numbers. The Forest of Dean wild boar population is growing particularly strong and contributes to a total number of boar in the UK anticipated at around 500. Numbers maybe higher that this, however, and DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) themselves admit that this number could potentially be over the 1,000 mark by now.

This unexpectedly successful re-introduction of such a large species of animal has certainly taken most people by surprise. DEFRA has acknowledged this situation and has gone to the trouble of producing the report: Feral Wild Boar in England: An Action Plan. You can read this document on the internet here.

Forest of Dean Wild Boar in Whitecroft

Living With Wild Boar In The Forest Of Dean

Many residents of the Forest of Dean have now become accustomed to living alongside this wild boar population. Indeed, some are regularly feeding some of the boar and one boar in particular living in and around Whitecroft village (I rather affectionately call him ‘Gerald’ - he just looks like a Gerald!) has acquired a taste for the better things in life, as he now turns his snout up at ordinary bread, in favour of paninis instead.

Yes indeed. Who has been feeding him panini? And more to the point, is this wise? Not according to my neighbour opposite, who left 3 small boys in the lounge watching TV and went out to the car to fetch something, and looked up to see the boar standing half in, half out of their kitchen. Terrified the boar would go in or that one of the children would startle it, he was quick-thinking enough to rustle a crisp packet from the car and the boar backed back out of his house!

The pictures to the right are taken from right outside my house, with the boar wandering happily about last summer. Boar watching became a popular pastime for the local kids and adults alike.

Forest of Dean Wild Boar in Whitecroft (This is where we walk the dogs most days on the way to or from the Forest tracks!)

But to inject some balance, there would seem to be a lot of really positive stories from the people living with wild boar in the Forest of Dean. Many, who have been lucky enough to spot them, will quite happily relay their experience as having been a remarkable moment for them and they will often state that they felt privileged to witness such a large animal in the wild. (I'd love to agree, but I've not been lucky enough to see one in the wild - walking down the street outside your front door isn't wild in my book, nor "in its natural habitat!")

Perhaps this is because we in Britain are not used to encountering larger mammals ordinarily. For most, a squirrel may be the largest animal that we may ever see running wild, therefore it is not difficult to empathise with these sentiments.

Alas, but somewhat understandably, the residents connected with the local farming industry do not seem to hold the same sentiments. They have far more at stake here, after all, and the boars typical behaviour of ploughing up earth in order to reach its sources of food, can and does lead to extensive damage and some financial burden. The farming community’s concerns and opinions have been taken into consideration by DEFRA and action has already been taken to attempt to manage the population of wild boar and keep it under control, through controlled culling programs.

The action utilised was far from being to everyone’s agreement. Many environmentalists claim that the wild boar is not responsible for half of the damage the farming industry may suggest and they believe that the churning over of earth is actually very beneficial to the natural ecosystem. Bluebells are just one example of a type of endangered plant species which is known to take full advantage of this.

  • Wild boar are shortsighted - fact.
  • Wild boar are shy - fact.
  • Wild boar get hungry - fact.

Draw your own conclusions from the above - it's not hard to work out. I love having wild boar on my doorstep (well OK not on the doorstep but in the Forest), but they are called WILD Boar for a reason.

Lovely to look at, but these animals should be left wild, and when they venture into our villages, DO NOT FEED OR ENCOURAGE THEM. At best they'll become a nuisance. At worse they will be run over, or a child or dog will be injured or killed, and then the boar will have to be shot - unnecessarily.

Sorry Gerald, no more panini for you! Go dig up some grubs. It's better for your digestion anyway.

Wild Boar Piglet

(c) fooflington at Flickr.com
(c) fooflington at Flickr.com

Forest of Dean Wild Boar in a garden!

The Misunderstood Wild Boar

In general, these ‘bad press’ news stories seem to be remembered far more readily and with more longevity than the good things that we hear about these creatures, who are now just trying to get on with their lives. Luckily enough though, there are many people that are willing to stand up for these misunderstood animals and there is information available on the internet that will provide you with a better understanding of wild boars. They are believed to be far more elusive usually and this elusiveness will become more and more apparent as the boars are given further reasons to fear man. There is one site that you may find especially interesting in this regard: click here for information.

As you will see through the above link, wild boar are not nearly as aggressive as many people may believe. Like any species of animal, they will defend their young and this is one of the reasons why you should not attempt to look for boar in February, which is the main month for them to produce their young.

Bad Boars Making News

It probably doesn’t help the Forest of Dean wild boar’s cause when news stories start to paint this animal as being somewhat of a nuisance and even a potential threat to people’s safety. This has unfortunately been the case recently though as adverse news stories have started to surface.

Back in January 2008, for example, one male wild boar had to be shot at Ruardean Primary School, as the Forestry Commission deemed that the animal posed a real risk to the health and safety of pupils, staff and parents. Whilst this form of action was bitterly regretted, at the time, it was established that there was no other way to deal with an angry boar that had started to charge at people on the school grounds. You can read more about this story here.

Another sounder (the collective noun for a herd of wild boar) caused a nuisance during a Saturday afternoon football match at Soudley Recreation Ground. When they started ploughing up the pitch which had recently been resurfaced after £1,000 had been raised through fund raising. It suffices to say that this match had to be called off! Whoops… this probably wasn’t the wild boar’s greatest moment! There is more on this here.

The Beast of Dean or the Moose Pig is a local legend.

Nick Redfern, in an article publicising his latest book "Monsters of Texas" describes that "a Forest of Dean legend tells of a Godzilla-like boar, known as the Beast of Dean or the Moose-Pig, which was said to have terrorised local villagers in the early part of the 19th century. So the story goes, in 1802, utterly tired by being harassed by the mysterious giant boar which, reputedly, was large enough to have felled trees and crushed hedges and fences, farmers from the village of Parkend undertook an expedition to capture and kill the creature, but found nothing whatsoever. The legend, however, still lives on." Nick Redfern’s latest book is Monsters of Texas, co-written with Ken Gerhard (CFZ Press, June 2010), and looks to be a great read!.


No matter what the reason for their presence back in the wilds of Gloucestershire, or indeed any part of the country, it must be remembered that they didn’t ask to be put there. But, there they are now and they are just trying to live an existence that is instinctive to them. DEFRA has already carried out an investigation into the potential spread of diseases by wild boar and it would appear to have concluded that all such threats to farmer’s livestock are low.

All-in-all, wild boar seem to have adjusted remarkably well to the rural location of the Forest of Dean and depending what side of the farming fence you are situated on, you may either love their presence in the area, or believe that they are a real nuisance and massive threat to the farming industry. Let us hope that more investigations will be carried out that will prove that the wild boar fall within the former category and that they are a welcome new addition to the fauna of the United Kingdom.

Update - November 2011 Wild Boar in the Forest of Dean

A census of wild boar is currently being undertaken using night vision technology to estimate the accurate numbers. Results will be published in February 2012. Latest estimates are 350 wild boar but many of us living here believe this to be far too low.

Between April 2010 and March 2011, the Forestry Commission culled 123 wild boar in the Forest, and the cull target for this year was set at 150. But since April 2011, already 154 animals have been culled or have died in road traffic accidents. Three weeks ago I narrowly avoided totally my car just opposite Cannop Pond where two HUGE boar were gambolling about in the middle of the road at twelve noon one Tuesday lunchtime. They are so solid I have no doubt my car would have been wrecked. In view of the high number of deaths so far, for the rest of the year the Forest rangers have reported that they will only shoot boar that are injured now, at the request of police. So no more culling for this year.

(c) Keith Marshall at Flickr.com
(c) Keith Marshall at Flickr.com

Want to See Forest of Dean Wild Boar?

There is an excellent guide to recognising wild boar signs. Check here for full details at Britishwildboar.org.uk

And there are some great pictures of Forest of Dean Wild Boar here.

Wild Boar in the Forest of Dean

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Comments 14 comments

Julie-Ann Amos profile image

Julie-Ann Amos 7 years ago from Gloucestershire, UK Author

Latest sighting - yesterday (6/2/9) a man with 2 labradors was chased by 2 boar in the Forest by the Rec Ground in Whitecroft. The boar seem very hungry - maybe because of the snow and they have babies - so seem to be far more brave than usual. I'll be taking food with me to the Forest in a smell-proof bag just in case for now, at least I can drop it for them and get away if I get chased. More likely to work than running at my slow speed!


BristolBoy profile image

BristolBoy 7 years ago from Bristol

Really enjoyed this article as I'm a bit of a fan of wild boar myself and come from relatively near to the Forest of Dean.


Julie-Ann Amos profile image

Julie-Ann Amos 7 years ago from Gloucestershire, UK Author

Thanks - yes I'm from Bristol but living in the Forest. Do share this around if anyone's interested


Julie-Ann Amos profile image

Julie-Ann Amos 7 years ago from Gloucestershire, UK Author

Stop press - latest sighting I saw a Mother and 4 tiny babies on the hill above Whitecroft/Pillowell on the track towards Parkend across the top of the hill. Mum all black and piglets obviously ginger and toffee coloured.

Father was further along the track (Dark Brown) and there is such a lot of activity up there there must be several families around there. LOTS of boar sign. I blogged it here: http://www.hackingreality.com/blog


Kevin 7 years ago

Wow, you have some really cool clips there. Its amazing to watch such secretive animals. Good to see them back.


sf 7 years ago

"Perhaps this is because we in Britain are not used to encountering larger mammals ordinarily. "

There's always been deer in the in UK and there is a huge population of them in the South West, can't say they are not a large wild mammal!


imipak 7 years ago

Having come across a family group with half a dozen or so piglets (boarlets?) not long after the first report in the "Forest Review" back in 2004, I would say:

1. Seeing them is a fantastic experience;

2. As a vurriner who's lived here less than 30 years, my humble opinion is that they're a fantastic species to have; real Foresters may differ with me on that.

3. Do *not* mess with boar. If you're lucky enough to see them, keep still and quiet, watch quietly, and don't approach them (though cautiously following at a distance may be OK, be prepared to run like hell if you need to. Those tusks are not for show.

Fortunately so far there've been few if any negative encounters, but a big male boar with young to protect which feels itself threatened can really spoil your day. (Readers of 'The Once and Future King': yes, what T.H. White said.) Those tusks are not for show. In my case, they let me follow them at a discreet distance >=20 yards or so), until the alpha boar stopped, turned round, and looked me straight in the eye with an unmistakable message. Dogs and boar, in particular, DO NOT MIX.


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 6 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

Great article, it gives me a little more sense of the wild areas in England. Here in the states I know the Wild Boar population has exploded, but so has the feral python population, perhaps they will even themselves out! I hope that your British neighbors will learn to adapt to their renewed wild population! There is a something to be said for the wild spirit connection between animals, people and the environment inbetween. If I ever make it back to England, I will put Forest of the Dean on my itinerary.


tim mather 6 years ago

i am now in the process of training 4 dogs for the purpose of boar hunting in the future.the population will grow in the next few years and with people like you feeding them they will grow even fatter, all it will take is a child to be killed in the forest by a hog for everyone to change they're tune.


Julie-Ann Amos profile image

Julie-Ann Amos 6 years ago from Gloucestershire, UK Author

Tim if you'd like to read the hub properly, not only do I not feed the boar but it is questioned as to whether this is wise.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

Just discovered your hubs on the Forest, my grandma was from there and my UK relatives still live in this wonderful area. I would not like to encounter a wild boar out walking! Great hub


chris 5 years ago

They are not dangerous as long as you treat them with respect. Don't approach them if they have young, don't corner them and don't startle them. I frequently encounter them in the woods around Elwood, Sling, Bream and Parkend and I've never felt I'm in any danger. Tim, your an idiot and boar hunting is currently and will always be illegal, get caught and your dogs will be put down, you will be fined and maybe risk a prison sentence. I'm all for the protection of any animal and I know for a fact if anyone is killed by a boar it will be their own stupid fault.


WalksThroughLife profile image

WalksThroughLife 5 years ago from Utah

It's so nice to see that these boars are making a comeback. Thanks for the great Hub!


BLA BLA 4 years ago

they are not endangered anymore

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