As the nature lovers amongst you will know we are blessed in the Province of Girona with some beautiful nature walks and cycling trails. One such walk that begins and ends in the village of Mont-ras is (unofficially) known by some locals as the “Boar Walk”. No prizes for guessing why!
European wild boar
If you have never seen a wild boar you may be surprised to learn just how extensive their range is, covering virtually all of Europe, most of Asia and parts of North Africa. The wild boar on the Iberian peninsula come under the Central European Boar subspecies and have been around since ancient times. The boar features prominently in old Germanic folklore and even more so in an ancient Celtic culture where the boar was a sacred animal. It was considered a “noble” animal to hunt and its meat was highly prized. Most of the heroes in ancient Greek mythology also fight and kill (or are killed by) a wild boar at some point.
In Girona Province, these days boars are often considered to be more of a pest than anything else, particularly by farmers, and especially so as their numbers have been on the rise over the last decade or so. About a century ago wild boar weren’t too far away from possible extinction in this region, and while that didn’t happen, a decade or so ago their numbers in Catalunya were somewhere around the 100,000 mark. With the absence from this part of Spain of its main predator, the grey wolf, wild boar are now estimated to have soared to about 240,000 in the Catalunya, with over 150,000 in Girona Province alone.
The population explosion has been exacerbated by the fact that native wild boar have interbred with even-more-fertile Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs, originally kept as “pets” by some rather short-sighted (can we say, “downright stupid”?) humans who released them into the wild when the pig grew too big! This caused litter sizes to increase from typically 2-5 to more like 5-8, and with ever-improving farming methods producing greater crop yields, this meant more food for boar too.
They are an extremely adaptable animal and, at this stage, considered such a nuisance that the Catalan government is investing over €10m to try and tackle their population by reducing their access to crops as well as food in urban areas. Extra permits are being issued to hunters too in an effort to control their population, so far in vain. As well as the increasing population of boar that hunting can no longer keep in check, another issue is that wild boar no longer seem to have a fear of either the humans or their hunting dogs, and they are becoming more aggressive if confronted rather than running away. Hunters are losing more and more of their best dogs every year, either killed or badly injured.
Although the hunting season might be a favourite time of year for the boars, it can be good news for meat-lovers! The hunting season for wild boar and other larger game, (caça major) runs from September till February or March so if you’re after some sangler meat, that’s the best time. (Wild boar in Catalan is sangler, similar to the French, sanglier, but in Spanish it’s javalí.) Some of the hunted boar are sent to bacon butchers who sell their meat throughout Catalunya, but hunters often give them to restaurants in the area around where the hunt took place. Although boar is not as commonly found on menus in restaurants as it is across the border in France or in Belgium or Germany, for example, one place where you can sample “boar stew” is Restaurant Ibéric in Ullastret, just north of La Bisbal – although check the menu in advance as it’s not necessarily on every day. Family-run Restaurant Bonay in Peratallada also has wild boar on their special menu that is available during la temporada de caça – hunting season – which runs from December to March.
Restaurant Ibéric in Ullastret
Restaurant Bonay in Bisbal
If you enjoy your nature hikes it is worth bearing in mind the rutting, or mating, season for boars happens between the months of November and January, so if you do come across any boar on your hike, or even hear loud rustling in the undergrowth, you’d be well advised not to approach but rather steer well clear. Although, like most animals with any sense boars will usually avoid us nasty humans, the males do become more aggressive during the rut and may attack. While this is quite rare, there is no point in taking any chances with those potentially lethal tusks. An adult male can weigh up to 100kg, be 80cm high at the shoulder and measure up to 150cm in length. They can be particularly dangerous to your dog too. Even in areas of the country where there are wolves, they leave these guys well enough alone and mostly only hunt younger and smaller boars. Really, it’s probably best to just let them be to enjoy their mating!
When the rutting season is over the male boar go back to living solitary lives and come springtime you are more likely to come across groups of female boar with their piglets, especially at dawn and dusk. Although they are not as large as the males, the instinct to defend their young can potentially make the females aggressive so, once again, they’re best avoided and left alone.
By the way, if you do happen to be out wandering the forests in the month of November, don’t forget that as well as rutting season for boars, it’s also mushroom hunting season! Now we’re getting hungry just thinking about wild boar stew with bolets!
Boars have a beneficial ecological role in woodlands as they root up and overturn earth in search of worms and grubs, thus creating ideal conditions for seeds and insects and so attracting birds, and so on up the food chain. Farmers, however, are no fans of wild boar as they often eat or harm crops as they bludgeon their way through vegetation – not being the most delicate of Nature’s creatures! They are not always unwelcome in olive groves though, as their foraging can in fact prove beneficial to the oliveras.
As well as farmers, gardeners with vegetable patches or fruit trees may also experience boar intrusion. As we continue to build houses on formerly rural land we are encroaching on the natural habitat of the sangler, such “intrusions” become more and more inevitable. But boar are extremely adaptable to all sorts of environments and will eat almost anything and so, unlike other animals whose numbers dwindle as humans destroy their natural environment, wild boar are actually increasing in number. The easy availability of food in peri-urban areas attracts them and they quickly lose any fear they may have had of humans. Needless to say, if your garden has suffered any boar-related damage feel free to callCarlos and we’ll be happy to assist in any way we can.
As if the wild boar weren’t making enough of a nuisance of themselves already in gardens and farmers’ fields, they have also been involved in over 80% of traffic accidents in Catalunya in recent times. In the province of Girona especially, the number of accidents caused by animals, mostly wild boar, have increased by almost 25% over the last five years or so. So take extra care on the road, especially in more wooded areas where they are more likely to roam. A fully-grown 100kg male wild boar can do quite a lot of damage to just about any type of vehicle!
So, in the interests of road safety, get yourself to your nearest restaurant with wild boar on the menu and eat as much as you can – and bring hungry friends too!