Wild Boar, a menace moving south
Wild boar, a somewhat dangerous species within the Algarve’s rich biodiversity, is making more of a nuisance of itself closer to the coast this year because of inland wildfires, writes Len Port.
Families of wild boar have been reported enjoying themselves on popular beaches, including Quarteira, Albandeira and Nossa Senhora da Rocha. Mercifully, they stay hidden during the day, only appearing at dusk and dawn, and so do not interfere with human sunbathers.
They are not often seen on golf courses either but their nocturnal presence has been apparent on some, such as Gramacho near Carvoeiro and Parque da Floresta west of Lagos. Morgado near Portimão suffered badly before it was fenced.
The attraction of golf courses in spring and summer is that they are well irrigated, making scratching for food easier.
As omnivores, the boar eat acorns, nuts, seeds, fruit, creepy-crawlies, mice, small reptiles and much besides. They dive into wheelie bins in search of lunch and dinner scraps.
In many places such as Odeaxere near Lagos they destroy farm crops. In the Odelouca Valley near Silves they have been turfing up young Quercus canariensis, a special and rare native tree, being cultivated by environmentalist Antonio Lambe. In the process the boars have damaged parts of the irrigation system.
Hunters and their dogs go after wild boar in what is known in Portuguese as a montado. Usually on a Saturday in the autumn a man in a red scarf near Messines would conduct the hunt blowing a horn. The dogs, specially bred for this type of hunting, would leap on the boar before the hunters get there.
“Those tusks are unforgiving. It’s pretty gruesome,” says John Greenhill who has watched from an opposite hillside.
“After the kill, the boar is transported on a pole to the hunting club lodge to be butchered. A lot of drink is taken, mainly the hard stuff, bagaço or medronho.
“I have a neighbour whom I have never met who used to put a wire noose on the boar path, always on a steep part so the boar would run headfirst into it and strangle itself slowly. I know this because I have cut two dogs out of the trap.
“I used to go regularly and destroy the nooses, so eventually whoever it was gave up.”
The presence of more wild boar closer to the coast this year is thought to have been forced by the extensive wildfires in their favourite habitat in the hills and foothills of the Algarve.
Early risers may now spot wild boar in the countryside anywhere from Aljezur in the far west to the Guadiana River in the fareast.
This year, for the first time in decades of living in a small wood just north of the N125 at Porches, Ian Fitzpatrick of the Olaria Pequena has twice spotted what looked like family groups of wild boar near his home. And there have been reports too of javali in the Porches countryside south of the N112.
Sudden outbursts of barking by fenced-in dogs at around sunrise or sunset can be a useful signal that boars are passing nearby.
Wild boar are capable of wrecking cars and have done so in collisions on ill-lit country roads in the Loulé area
People out walking in the countryside need to be cautious. Should you encounter one or more of these mighty, fanged creatures, back off! Avoid any form of confrontation.
Don’t for a moment imagine you can outrun animals with such robust bodies but relatively little legs. They can sprint at 40 km/h and jump over obstacles one and a half metres tall.
Although short-sighted, the boar can quickly sense potential trouble but generally try to avoid conflict with humans by running for cover in dense undergrowth.
Global warming permitting, wild boar are here to stay. It is one of the most widespread wild mammals in the world and one of the least endangered.
Len Port worked at the Natural History Museum in London and later the Museum of Western Australia before turning to journalism. He worked for many years as a staff reporter, broadcaster and freelance correspondent covering major events in the Far East, Northern Ireland and South Africa before settling in Portugal where he has edited regional magazines, contributed to national news outlets overseas and written several books.