Local wildlife group says animals are ‘surviving and breeding’ following 2005 release by animal activits.

Wild boar are regularly spooted on and around Exmoor. Picture by Dave WebbWild boar are regularly spooted on and around Exmoor. Picture by Dave Webb

WILDLIFE enthusiasts say the wild boar population is ‘thriving’ on Exmoor, nearly seven years after scores of animals were reintroduced to the area.

Members of a new local group set up to record boar sightings estimate that there are currently in the region of 50 to 80 living on and around the fringes of the moor.

Around 100 wild boar were released from a farm near South Molton, shortly before Christmas 2005 after a wire fence was cut by animal activists.

Forty were recovered before a ‘wild boar hunt’ – the first in more than 300 years – sparked a media frenzy in the tiny hamlets of East and West Anstey.

Members of the Dulverton Farmers’ Hunt only succeeded in capturing one, leaving around 60 to roam the moor.

Now, the newly-formed Devon and Somerset branch of Friends of the Boar say that the boar, once a native species in the British Isles, are now surviving and breeding in the wild once again.

Spokesperson Dave Webb, from North Molton, said: “I have personally had reports from landowners who have seen and recorded wild boar sightings. Only this year there was a sighting of a sow with five piglets which proves that they are surviving and breeding in the wild once again.

“Being very shy and unaggressive animals, you are very lucky to see one as they tend to stay within the natural woodlands of Exmoor.

“We should remember that wild boar are a native species in the UK and we desperately need them in order to maintain a healthy and sustainable environment for both the wild boar and the other wildlife on Exmoor.”

Mr Webb, who has photographed the animals on Exmoor, said there had also been field signs and reported sightings at Rackenford, Knowstone, Brendon, Rockford and Molland.

“While we appreciate the boar do root over grasslands and cause a minimum amount of damage we should also remember that our indigenous flora and fauna evolved with and because of our wild boar population.

“When they root the ground they turn the top layer of turf with their strong snouts to reach the grubs, worms and fungi for food which in turn helps and encourages new growth and regeneration of fresh grass, plants and insects.

“This has an ongoing benefit to our bees, bats and other wildlife, so as you can see the wild boar are a very important species that we can not do without.

“The general public have a perception that these animals are aggressive and cause lots of damage which is not the case and this is mainly due to not being educated about the boar which is why the original Friends of the Boar group was set up in the Forest of Dean in 2007.

“Due to the public’s ideas changing we have now expanded our branches to Wiltshire and Mendips; Devon and Somerset; and Norfolk and this is growing day by day as people really are interested in our wild boar.

“Seeing a wild boar in its natural and original environment is one of the best wildlife experiences you can have.

“We are always collating information regarding the sightings of our wild boar on Exmoor and any information on sightings, possible sightings, field signs can be logged at our website www.friendsoftheboar.org.”