The number of wild boar in these hills has grown in recent decades to such an extent that hunting is often extended into the summer months.
Fortunately, I have not seen or heard the dogs and guns since the winter and my small clearing and veg garden are now no longer on a route the boar used to take. It is not clear whether this is as a result of my presence – I sometimes chase them away in the evenings when they wander close by – or because there is a badger who now lives nearby. Or perhaps, simply different routes at different times of the year.
It is rare to see the wild boar because they are so well camouflaged for the forest and because the undergrowth is so dense. It is yet a young forest, 50 years old, with some older trees, and there is still enough light coming through where the canopy, although closed, is not yet dense enough to stop the adventitious growth of rose, clematis, briar, smilax spp, as well as the saplings and seedlings of oaks, maple and hawthorn.
So my relationship to the wild boar is mostly through hearing and especially to a family group which ranges widely over these parts. I met them yesterday in the return from another walk. It is this group which I have heard many evenings passing by, where along with the rustle of many feet on the dried leaves and the occasional fights and squeals of the younger boar, there is the constant trumpeting and wheezing of the mother (the dominant female?) , seemingly communicating with the extended group to keep them together and moving in the same direction.
Yesterday a pair of this year’s young had fallen behind the main group and were just beneath the path I was on. They were unaware of my presence 15m away and I was able to get out my camera and take these photos.
It was the same last year here in my clearing when I came across these two yearlings, this time taking a break in the light shade about 25m from my cabin. In the photos the young boar are not distinct and at full ‘zoom’ it is possible to see how easily it would be to pass them by. Again, it is the sound they make that gives them away. Although, down wind of a group in summer, there is a very strong and distinctive smell, which you catch even long after the boar have gone!
As I write this a loud crash on the hillside above, of stones cracking against each other and then another making its accelerating way down the steep hill, mark the passing of what is probably a solitary male.
Even the sounds, after a time begin to become differentiated, one from the other, and now it is possible to perceive either boar or deer startled by my approach running off through the forest. The boar often crash through the undergrowth or you hear the quick sound of their hooves through the leaf litter. While the deer are more silent and there is a longer, almost gliding gait to the sound of the retreating step.
I caught a glimpse of a fawn yesterday, following close behind its mother, just for a second it was there caught in the flashing sun between the trees before disappearing into the dark of the woods once more… Far to quick for this poor photographer to get out the camera.