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In Berlin, residents battle boorish boars

The wild pigs -- there are about 10,000 of them in the city -- are turning to lawns and gardens for their food.

June 01, 2008|From the Associated Press

BERLIN — Boars are foraging through carefully tended gardens here and rooting up city parks in search of food. Angry sows have on occasion attacked people who strayed too close to their piglets.

Some residents want the animals curtailed, even if it means a cull.

"There are too many boars around here because Berlin's hunters don't shoot enough of the animals," said Uwe Neumann, a resident of the Eichkamp Siedlung, a small cluster of homes near Berlin's massive Grunewald park.

It's common to stroll the grounds of the Im Dol, a small park in a residential area of southwest Berlin, or the nearby Schlachtensee, and see boars rummaging in the bushes and shrubbery.

Boars have always lived in Berlin, Germany's biggest city, in part because of its many parks, green fields and thick wooded areas.

But these natural areas, including the soil, have gotten drier in recent years. So the boars have increasingly turned to private lawns and gardens, which Berliners keep watered and landscaped.

The boars especially enjoy eating earthworms, said Elmar Kilz, who oversees the Grunewald Forestry Office.

"Wild boars are so-called Kulturfolger or animals that survive in areas developed by man," Kilz said. "They don't shy away from humans and actually profit from their presence."

A boar can weigh as much as 200 pounds. One person tried to shoo a boar out of his living room with a broom, and suffered a broken leg when the animal turned on him, Kilz said.

"No wonder the animal attacked the man," he added.

The city estimates about 10,000 wild boars are in Berlin.

"This is normal," he said. "You cannot speak of a plague here," said Derk Ehlert, who oversees the city government's hunting license office.

The city issues licenses to hunt the animals only around the 223,900-acre Berlin hunting grounds.

Last year 955 boars were bagged, and this season the count is up to 1,757.

Hunting boars, though, can prove tricky. Boars like to live in the same areas where thousands of Berliners go to walk, run and play.

"Hunters just can't shoot whatever looks like a wild pig," Ehlert said.

Despite their reputation, not all boars are bad. Even Neumann, the man who wants more of them shot, conceded that they are not always aggressive.

One woman in Grunewald fed a pig and held a piglet in her arms, while the sow did nothing, he said.

Recently a herd of the wild animals even helped police capture a suspected car thief in Schwerin, about 115 miles to the northwest.

The 18-year-old abandoned a stolen sport-utility vehicle and ran into the woods to evade police.

He stumbled upon a sounder of boars that were keen to protect their young. Forced to choose between angry boars and pursuing police, he shouted for help.

The police nabbed him.

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