In Italy, the increasing wild boars are a problem for agriculture

Lorenzo Pasqualini 3 hours ago 7 min
Specimens of wild boars (Sus scrofa) in the central Apennines.

The growing number of wild boars (Sow) in Italy is becoming a bigger and bigger problem for theagriculture, while in newspapers and social networks they often circulate videos of wild boars wandering around the outskirts of large cities, such as Rome, rummaging through the garbage.

The depopulation of mountain areas, the increase in wooded areas following the abandonment of the countryside, the scarcity of predators (the only predator is the wolf), the introduction into the territory of non-native specimens for hunting purposes (the specimens of wild boars from Eastern Europe introduced decades ago for hunting have spread enormously on the Italian territory) and milder winters are indicated among the causes of this increase.

The images of wild boars looking for food among the garbage in Italian cities are striking, and have traveled around the world, receiving important media coverage also for the concern it raises in public opinion. A the less talked about problem is the damage caused by this high number of wild boars to agricultural crops.

In July one new mobilization of Italian farmers called for urgent measures. Rising wild boars lead to more and more damage to crops, requiring costly containment measures. The increase in the number of wild boars, in an environment that has long been man-made and profoundly modified by human activities, it also poses a problem of biodiversity.

Wild boars on the rise in Italy, farmers’ protests

At the beginning of July the Coldiretti, the main association representing agriculture in Italy, organized a protest in front of the seat of the Italian Parliament, in Rome, to ask for the containment of the number of wild boars, which is constantly increasing. On the day of the event, Coldiretti released the estimates on the number of specimens, which would be increased by 15% in the months of the most stringent measures against the pandemic of COVID-19 and that they would be by now 2 million and 300 thousand.

The high number of wild boars present in Italy, due to various factors, causes serious damage to agricultural crops every year. Farmers have been asking for measures to contain them for years.

The Higher Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA) also reports a sharp increase in the number of wild boars, with a doubling of the number in 10 years. According to ISPRA, it went from 500,000 in 2010 to 1 million in 2020. The precise estimate is complex, but an upward trend clearly emerges. In some regions, such as Umbria, the increase in a few decades has been exponential.

Studies confirm a rapid increase in the number of wild boars in Italy.

Coldiretti points out that the increase in wild boars is causing serious problems for crops. Not only the cereal fields are devastated by the passage of the flocks, but also other types of crops suffer serious damage and the impact on the territory is felt.

Wild boars in cities and the risk of road accidents

So far the damage to agriculture, but the increase in wild boars is also creating problems in cities where they are perceived as a danger. Videos of wild boars looking for food in the outskirts of Italian cities are being published more and more often on social networks and newspapers. In general, always in areas close to urban parks.

In this regard, ISPRA recalls that one of the reasons why these animals move to the city is the practice absolutely not recommended to feed these wild animals. ISPRA reminds us that providing food is an absolutely inadvisable practice, “because it favors the habit of these animals to humans with potential risks for people, without forgetting that such behavior also implies risks for the animals themselves”.

According to ISPRA, the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, one of the reasons why wild boars go to the city is to be found in the absolutely inadvisable and harmful practice of feeding these wild animals.

Facilitating the presence of wild boars near roads and homes, it is not to be underestimated the risk of road accidents which can be caused by crossing them. Road accidents caused by crossing herds of wild boars in Italy are numerous. The high number of these specimens, which often move in herds, increases the risk of collision with vehicles, especially at night.

In Italy, feeding wild boars is prohibited

In Italy the foraging of wild boars is expressly prohibited by law 221/2015 which provides for, for those who violate this prohibition, arrest from 2 to 6 months or a fine from € 500 to 2,000. For the city of Rome there is a specific ordinance of 2016 which orders “not to distribute food to pigeons, seagulls and other animals belonging to wildlife in public areas” which can be prosecuted with a penalty of € 50 to 500.

Solutions?

The debate on how to deal with this large number of wild boars has been going on for years. Among the containment proposals is selective killing combined with sterilization and population control based on scientific methods. Among the containment proposals, the use of hunting is also proposed, but several studies show that it would not be sufficient and above all could lead to adverse effects. The use of hunting is also criticized for being partly the cause of the problem, given that the specimens of wild boar present in Italy are of a variety coming from Eastern Europe, introduced precisely for hunting purposes.

Once again, in an environment profoundly modified by human activity, profound problems of imbalance caused by our species emerge.

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