Berliners annoyed with roving boars

/ Source: The Associated Press

Berliners are bored with boars.

The husky beasts are foraging through carefully tended gardens and rooting up city parks in search of food. Angry sows have even on occasion attacked people who strayed too close to their litters of piglets.

Although the city has not called for an outright cull, critics are bristling. They want the animals curtailed, even if it means a gunshot here and there.

"There are too many boars around here because Berlin's hunters don't shoot enough of the animals," said Uwe Neumann, a resident of the Eichkamp Siedlung, a small cluster of homes near Berlin's massive Grunewald park. It's not uncommon to stroll the grounds of the Im Dol, a small park in the midst of a residential area in the South of Berlin, or the Schlachtensee, and see boars rummaging in the bushes and shrubbery.

Always lived in Berlin
Boars have always lived in Berlin, Germany's biggest city, in part because of its many parks, green fields and thick wooded areas.

But these natural areas, including the soil, have gotten drier in recent years. So the boars have increasingly turned to private lawns and gardens, which Berliners keep nice and wet through watering and landscaping. The boars especially enjoy eating earthworms beneath the ground, said Elmar Kilz, who oversees the Grunewald Forestry Office.

"Wild boars are so-called Kulturfolger or animals that survive in areas developed by man," Kilz said. "They don't shy away from humans and actually profit from their presence."

One person fractured his leg after a boar turned on him. In that case, the boar entered the living room and the man tried to shoo it out with a broom, Kilz said.

"No wonder the animal attacked the man," he added.

The city estimates there are now about 10,000 wild boars in Berlin. That's more than the 7,000 an informal census counted in 2005.

Either way, the numbers hardly add up to a stampede, said Derk Ehlert, who oversees the city government's hunting license office.

"This is normal," he said. "You cannot speak of a plague here."

The city issues licenses to hunt the animals, but only around the 223,900-acre Berlin hunting grounds. A boar can weigh as much as 200 pounds.

Last year 955 boars were bagged, and this season the count is up to 1,757.

Hunting boars can prove tricky
Hunting boars, though, can prove tricky. Boars like to live in the same areas where thousands of Berliners go to walk, run and play in the park on sunny days.

"Hunters just can't shoot whatever looks like a wild pig," Ehlert said.

Despite their reputation, not all boars are bad. Even Neumann, the man who wants more of them shot, conceded they are not always aggressive. One woman in Grunewald fed a pig and held a piglet in her arms, while the sow did nothing, he said.

Earlier this week a herd of the wild animals even helped police capture a suspected car thief in Schwerin.

The 18-year-old abandoned a stolen SUV and ran into the woods to evade police. He stumbled upon a sounder of boars that were keen to protect their young. Forced to choose between angry boars and pursuing police, he shouted for help.

The police nabbed him.