Wild boars cause millions of crowns in damage in agriculture sector

Wild boar, photo: archive of Radio Prague

Uprooted earth, ruined fields, leftover bits of corn, beetroot and wheat gobbled up: each year, wild boars in the Czech Republic cause extensive damage. Legally, game keeping associations are responsible for the regulation of population levels; in the case of wild boar, many argue, new steps need to be taken. Last year, 185,000 specimens were hunted, yet damage remains in the millions of crowns.

Wild boar,  photo: archive of Radio Prague
Almost 200,000 boars hunted each year seems almost astronomical, estimated as being up to 60 percent of the overall boar population; yet some in the agriculture as well as game keeping sectors say is probably not enough, given the damage registered. Luděk Kralíček, of the Czech-Moravian Gamekeepers Association, agrees that wild boars are a considerable problem. Part of the reason is that, in many areas, the conditions for boar herds are exceptional: the animals are able to invade large monoculture fields that are not only inviting but difficult to guard. Luděk Kralíček told me more this week:

“We hunted 185,000 boars last year, so you can imagine how high the damage would have run if they were left unchecked. During the hunting season, when female boars are not giving birth to young, we shot and killed many, yet it still seems to be not enough. The high population numbers are directly related to agricultural production: the amount of beetroot, corn, and other crops produced. There is enough for the high number to be sustained.”

The dramatic rise in the population of wild boar today goes back to historic developments dating back to the war. Also, other than human beings, the animal has little to fear. Luděk Kralíček again:

“An adult male weighing 200 kilos has no natural predator, it is at the top of its respective food chain. Young boars can be hunted by wolves in areas by the Carpathians, and in the Czech Republic can fall prey to lynx. But disease affects population numbers far more.

Luděk Králíček,  photo: archive of Radio Prague
“As for the history, the population began to increase after WW II. Until then, the movement of boars and other game was more or less limited to large fenced areas or game grounds. The movement of armies flattened fences though, and boars and other game were able to spread unchecked. Changes in hunting, namely the elimination of inhumane methods such as poison or traps, also helped boars reach the enormous population number we see today.”

Agricultural producers in the Czech Republic who suffer damaged fields and crop losses, under the law have up to 20 days to file for compensation, but that often is not enough time, when one considers the size of fields being raided. Luděk Kralíček:

“The law says that they must file damage with the game keeping association responsible within 20 days and agree on compensation and if they cannot, to take the matter to court. The problem is that in agriculture, machines today have replaced people in many areas, and a single farmer or employee can be responsible for overseeing 4,000 hectares. So they find out too late. If you have activity in the middle of an enormous field, it may not be discovered for quite a while.”

For that reason, game keepers have not only recommended that farmers mix crops being raised but also that fields be limited in size, to make it easier to spot damage earlier. The greatest damage is in corn and beetroot fields.

Photo: Barbora Kmentová
“We pushed for field width to be limited to a maximum 200 metres. That would make the field easier to monitor, as well as make it easier to hunt for boars. They can be difficult to track and can hide easily in large fields.

“Some farmers understand the need for fields to be divided with different crops but others aren’t concerned one way or another, having learned to claim damages from game keeping associations. Some don’t care whether they sell their corn or are compensated for their losses. It would be far better if farmers and hunters learned to work together to solve the problem.”

As for the thousands of boar that are successfully hunted? Game has a long tradition on the dining room table and is a specialty at many fine Czech restaurants, not least at castles or chateaux. That is one silver-lining in the hunting of the animals, at least for meat-eaters. The process followed is strict but meat which is approved usually ends up, if not in a restaurant than on families’ dining room tables.

Photo: Miloš Turek
“In the Czech Republic each game hunted has to be tested for trichinosis and cleared by the State Veterinary Administration. Upon receiving documentation, hunters can either keep the meat for personal consumption, or sell it. More than 50 percent of the game ends up sold in stores. Game, including wild boar, is very popular, not least on special occasions.

“If you have ever seen the film The Snowdrop (Slavnosti sneženek) you will know that one of the quintessential questions is whether the meat should be served with cabbage or cranberry sauce. And of course with dumplings and beer.”