Nature groups in 'Boar War' over wild pigs roaming our countryside
A 'BOAR War' has erupted over whether the wild hairy pig is an Irish native or foreign invader.
The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) strenuously objected yesterday to the wild boar being officially classified by a government body as an "invasive species".
The move comes after state wildlife chiefs declared war on the boar following a number of sightings in wooded areas.
Invasive Species Ireland, a project backed by the State's National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS ), lists wild boar as one of its "most unwanted" invasive species because they "damage crops, gardens, amenity areas as well as potentially spreading disease".
Wild boars are known to carry TB, foot and mouth, swine flu and the blue tongue virus.
But the animal is not completely alien to Ireland -- they lived here until prehistoric times but were driven to extinction as humans hunted them or cut down their forest habitats.
And they are now making something of a comeback. with 12 boars spotted in woodlands recently.
Last month, a wild boar was reported to have been trapped and killed in the Slieve Bloom Mountains. The boars were believed to have been illegally released into the wild by shooters.
But the Wildlife Trust said boars were not invasive, and were "a keystone species in forest ecosystems".
It added: "Their rooting activity creates a disturbance regime that increases plant diversity and aids tree regeneration. For these reasons, the Irish Wildlife Trust objects to the current classification of wild boar as an invasive species by Invasive Species Ireland.
"We feel that this move confuses members of the public about what an invasive species actually is, making it more difficult to raise awareness about the threats from actual invasives, such as grey squirrel, rhododendron and zebra mussel."
The charitable wildlife organisation also said it objected to the illegal release of wild boar, as this led to a risk of diseases that could threaten agriculture.
"These irresponsible introductions could be prevented without having to define wild boar in Ireland as invasive."
It is illegal to release wild boars.and the trust said that if a reintroduction should take place, then it should be only be sanctioned by the wildlife service in accordance with international guidelines.
Dr Ferdia Marnell, head of animal ecology at the NPWS, warned yesterday of the serious risks to animal health and ecology if the wild boar becomes established in woodlands.
There has been deliberate releasing of wild boars by some hunters unaware of the consequences.
"Wild boar can carry a lot of nasty diseases such as TB and swine flu," Dr Marnell told the Irish Independent.
Boars are large mammals with powerful bodies and coarse hairy coats.
With no natural predators, wild boars could cause significant disruption to agriculture as they damage crops and uproot large areas of land and eliminate native vegetation, which has happened in Britain.