We had all agreed not to mention the content of the meeting until released to the press.
Ian Standing (Verderer) asked 4 representatives to appear before him so that he could make a report based upon different viewpoints. The report shall be taken to the Council for futher consideration.
It is already noted by Friends of the Boar that reference to a closed-season has been largely glossed over. Friends of the Boar and Dr Martin Goulding both commented on the value of closed-seasons, that they should be from February to June, and that last year's year-long cessation from culling has brought many benefits to both boar and people.
Here is the final statement, released to the press last week:
Record of a Meeting on Forest of Dean feral wild boar. Held at Bank House Coleford, Friday 24th August 2012.
Dr Robin Gill Vertebrate ecologist, FC Forest Research
Dr Martin Goulding British Wild Boar Organisation
Ian Harvey FC Wildlife Manager, Forest of Dean
Scott Passmore Friends of the Boar (observer)
Dr David Slater Friends of the Boar
Ian Standing Verderer, Forest of Dean; Chairman
Apology for absence: Rob Ward was unable to attend and nominated David Slater in his place. Rob also asked that Scott Passmore be present. Scott was asked by the Chairman to act as an observer because attendance had been limited to those originally invited.
Outcome statement: MG asked about reporting and media interest. It was agreed that a draft record and statement will be circulated to all for consideration. Any media requests to be deferred until the content of the record and statement were approved by everyone.
Update of Boar in Dean and adjacent areas
The Dean population is doing well and said to be thriving. Migration has been recorded between the Chase Hill/Penyard and Dean groups. There is also natural migration of animals from Dean into adjacent farmland and woods. Boar are present on the Welsh side of the Wye and a new group has been reported near Leominster. The Penyard group appears to have contracted.
RG explained the methodology of thermal imaging and its application to animal abundance surveys. Although the boar are less easily picked up than deer due to their lower height and the intervening ground cover, distance sampling does provide sufficient data for scientific estimations to be made, subject to a confidence factor. Thermal imaging does not produce an exact population number but successive surveys will indicate changes in populations.
Thermal imaging research in Italy using radio collared, and marked wild boar demonstrated that thermal imaging and distance sampling was a reliable tool. In the UK surveys so far made by thermal imaging will not have found all the animals in the Forest but those that are located can be used in statistical analysis to determine both estimated populations and population trends.. Better equipment is becoming available and a survey in the Dean Main Block is planned for this winter.
Other methods of assessing population size relied on reported sightings. The Friends of the Wild Boar Website has enabled the public to register hundreds of sightings. FC staff are in the woods daily and record their sightings on maps. Different methods produce different estimates of the population.
Negative effects of wild boar include problem animals (usually created by feeding), dog walking and horse rider encounters, and a steady increase in traffic accidents. Ecologically, wild boar may have an impact on small mammal populations.
The Public’s view of wild boar in the Dean
There is wide range of views and reaction among the public, some of it strongly polarised. Fear, damage to roadside verges, dog encounters, road accidents and boar damage to recreational grassland and farm land bring negative reactions. This will increase if humans are injured by attack, or die in RTAs, although neither has happened.
Positive support comes from those who view the wild boar as a re-introduction of a former native wild animal. Many others gain excitement and enjoyment from the presence of wild boar. The Friends of Wild Boar Website receives hundreds of positive comments and requests for advice on where to see boar. The District Council features the animal as a tourism attraction. There has been a decline in complaints reaching FC.
An unpublished survey of public reaction to wild boar was undertaken in 2009-10 by Dutton & Clayton of Worcester University. A summary is included in: Feral Wild Boar Management Plan Forest of Dean, 2011 to 2016. A further study is said to be planned for 2013.
Further education of the public is considered to be an important need, to reduce fear, to discourage feeding and to promote safe practice for dog walking.
The target population number for wild boar in Dean
Following an anonymous release in 2004 of up to 60 animals near Staunton, the population increased steadily. This resulted in negative public reaction and the involvement of the District Council. In early summer of 2009 the population was estimated to be 90; that number was adopted as the target population agreed between the District Council and FC.
The meeting noted that the Dean is the first substantial area of woodland in Britain used recreationally by the public to contain a sizeable number of boar. It further examined the many factors, including animal densities, poaching, and emigration that affect the size of the population and the inherent difficulty of achieving a scientifically verifiable population figure. Dean boar are not hunted but animals are known to be shot on adjacent lands..
The following observations / recommendations were made:
* Robin Gill’s research is welcomed and, if possible, should be further funded and fast tracked
* Maintaining a healthy boar population includes the need for prudent, humane control
* Doing nothing is not an option because reproductive capacity is very high. With sows producing 4 or more young each year, a 50% reduction by emigration or humane control is needed to maintain numbers at an appropriate level.
* The number of animals emigrating from Dean, or culled on private land and by poachers, is unknown.
* Regarding a proposed closed season between March and June. RG comments: This subject was not discussed in sufficient depth in the meeting. While I agree it is important to try to find ways of achieving humane control, the dates (and sexes) for any proposed closed season should be chosen carefully. I would advocate the collection and review of more evidence of reproductive data before a decision is taken on a closed season, as well as discussion with stalkers who may be involved.
* The Forestry Commission propose raising the target population from an estimated 90 animals to 400. The majority of the group agreed that raising the target population is acceptable. MG commented that he was not comfortable with adding numbers to the population on which to base any possible culling decisions because current numbers are based only on estimates or guesswork. Scientifically reliable numbers were needed.
* Different sources offer different estimates of the population size. Friends of the Boar estimate 200 for August 2012. FC wildlife rangers estimate 500-600 for August 2012.
* Culling targets may need reconsidering while numbers become clearer.
* Transparency and sensible use of the media are to be encouraged.
* Further education of the public will assist in keeping boar away from settlements and tourism venues.
On closing the meeting the Chairman thanked everyone for their very helpful and expert inputs. He welcomed the positive nature of the discussion and hoped that it will continue.
On 24th August a meeting was held in Coleford to discuss the present situation relating to feral wild boar in the Forest of Dean. It received contributions from expert mammal wildlife ecologists, members of the Forestry Commission and a representative of the Friends of the Wild Boar. It was noted that following an anonymous release of up to 60 animals in 2004 near Staunton, the population had naturalised and numbers of boar had spread to all parts of the Forest. This led the District Council after a period of consultation to recommend to the Forestry Commission and the Verderers to agree in 2009 that a population of 90 animals would be appropriate in the Forest of Dean.
Because the Forest of Dean is the first substantial area of woodland in Britain used recreationally by the public to experience a sizeable number of boar, research has been needed and is ongoing. Determining the exact number of boar in the Forest has proved to be very difficult and to date management of the boar has of necessity been based on estimated numbers. The meeting recognised the difficulty this imposes and it welcomed the new survey work planned for this winter.
Doing nothing in the long term is not an option. There are no natural predators and the reproductive capacity of wild boar is very high. With sows producing 4 or more young each year, a 50% reduction by emigration or humane control is needed to maintain numbers at a stable level.
The Forestry Commission has recommended increasing the target population from 90 to 400 animals. The majority of the group, agreed that the principle of raising the target population is acceptable, although one member commented that culling of the boar to target figures should only be considered once defendable, scientifically-derived population figures had been obtained. No increased target population figure was universally agreed, in part due the population figures being estimates and not exact. Different sources offer estimates of the current population ranging from 200 to 600.
The meeting also favoured further education and information being made available on safety and on the importance of not feeding the boar. When boar are fed they become attracted to tourist spots and local villages, and at risk from traffic and non humane intervention.
I. J. Standing, Chairman
26th August 2012.