Ref: 48/08
Date: 19 February 2008

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Government supports local communities to manage wild boar

The first policy and action plan to help local communities manage feral wild boar populations where they live was announced by Joan Ruddock, Minister for Biodiversity today.

Wild boar died out in the United Kingdom at least 300 years ago, but following escapes and illegal releases from farms in Britain, small populations of feral wild boar have been found in a small number of areas. 

Announcing the action plan, Joan Ruddock said:

“It is important that communities and land owners are allowed to decide the future of their wild boar populations based on their local situation.  The Government’s support will help them make the right decisions for where they live.

“We will continue to look at the effect of feral wild boar on the environment, and will review our action plan in three years to ensure it is working.”

The action plan will commit to the development of best practice for landowners and local communities including:

  • Technical advice on how feral wild boar should be managed such as the type of firearms used for their control, and to ensure appropriate security at wild boar farms to prevent captive wild boar from escaping.
  • Provide guidance for farmers and landowners to quickly identify disease in wild boar and livestock.
  • Setting food and hygiene standards that need to be met if feral wild boar that are shot then enter the food chain.
  • Land managed by Defra and its Agencies is to be managed in line with the Defra action plan, and in consultation with local land owners where appropriate and practical.

The Defra consultation on making it an offence (under schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981) to release or allow wild boar to escape into the wild without a licence closed on the 31 January, and we are currently considering responses.

Two risk assessments also published today show that feral wild boar do not pose a national threat to the environment, farming or public safety.

Notes to editors

1. Details of the framework can be found on the Defra website together with copies of the 2005 ‘Feral wild boar in England’ consultation results, and the two risk assessments: Livestock Disease; and Risk to Biodiversity, Agricultural Damage, and Human Health and Safety

2. Wild boar, Sus Scrofa are an ancestor of the domestic pig, with which it can freely hybridise.  They were once native in Britain but driven to extinction at least 300 years ago through over hunting, cross breeding with free-range domestic pigs and habitat loss.  Feral breeding populations have recently been re-established through illegal releases and/or escapes of farmed stock.  

3. The English feral boar population is estimated at no more than around 500 in the established populations, and fewer than 1000 in total.  There are three established feral breeding populations of feral wild boar in England:

  • The largest, in Kent/Sussex was estimated in 2004 at approximately 200 animals in the core distribution area;
  • The second largest in the Forest of Dean/Ross on Wye area, where there may be in excess of 50 animals;
  • The smallest is in west Dorset, where there are still believed to be fewer than 50 animals.

4. Since winter 2005/6 significant escapes/releases have resulted in animals colonising areas around the fringes of Dartmoor and evidence of breeding in the wild has been recorded.  These are considered as an additional single new breeding population and it is currently estimated that there are up to 50 animals in this population.  There have also been further release incidents in Devon in 2007.



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Page published: 19 February 2008

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs