Wildlife chiefs declare a boar war in countryside
WILD boars are considered the latest threat to the Irish countryside after a number were released into the wild by irresponsible shooting enthusiasts.
Alarmed wildlife chiefs from the Republic and the North have met in recent days to declare war on the boar before it becomes established.
Some 12 wild boars have already been spotted in woodlands.
Wild boars can carry serious diseases such as foot and mouth and the blue tongue virus.
It is illegal to release wild boars as they are officially classified as an invasive species but it is understood an irresponsible minority of huntsmen have introduced them as quarry.
Dr Ferdia Marnell, head of animal ecology at the National Parks and Wildlife Service, attached to the Department of the Environment, warned yesterday of the serious risks to animal health and ecology if the wild boar becomes established in woodlands. He said there had been "deliberate releasing" of wild boars by some hunters who were not aware of the potentially catastrophic consequences.
"We have very good evidence that they cause enormous damage to agriculture and forestry," said Dr Marnell. "The majority of shooters are very responsible, but a minority may have released them. Some people do not think of the consequences.
"Because they are not widespread, they are hard to track down. But when they become widespread it is too late," he added.
Other suspected sources of the problem are farmed wild boars which have either escaped or were released. Ecology experts met recently as part of the joint North-South Invasive Species Project to target invasive animals -- such as the wild boar -- over the next two years to prevent them becoming embedded in the countryside.
Once a native species here, wild boars became extinct in prehistoric times.
Boars are large mammals with powerful bodies and coarse hairy coats. They would pose a serious threat to biodiversity, human health and safety and economic activity, according to the ecology chiefs.
With no natural predators, wild boars would expand unchallenged and significantly damage agriculture.
Dr Marnell said they are known to damage crops and potentially spread animal disease. They uproot large areas of land and eliminate native vegetation.