Berlin fights boar wars, as wild swine swagger through city streets
By Sumi Somaskanda- Special to The Washington Times
Updated: 8:14 p.m. on Thursday, May 12, 2011
BERLIN — It’s the age-old tale of man versus beast.
In Germany’s leafy capital, Berlin, wild boars are wreaking havoc on the city as they snout their way through parks and gardens, destroying land and butting against the boundaries of urban life.
This year, they tore through the grass and uprooted graves at a Berlin World War II cemetery for British soldiers, causing damages exceeding $14,000.
Roaming wild boars are showing up on abandoned plots of land, overgrown parking lots and lush highway medians in search of food — and the problem is only getting worse.
“The boars have stopped following the rules,” said city wildlife officer and biologist Derk Ehlert.
Matthias Eggert, Gatow Forest Ranger and Licensed Boar Hunter inspects the damage caused by wild boars (Sus scrofa) in the forest in Gatower Heide in the far western part of Berlin. Growing wild boar populations have become an increasing problem in urban parts of the city of Berlin. Attracted in part by people feeding them and by the food found in the garbage they have migrated far into the center of town where they damage and destroy gardens and parks in their search for food.
“They’re leaving the forest and entering the city. And not just for a short amount of time, for extended periods of time — sometimes permanently.”
Mr. Ehlert attributes the problem to an explosion in the wild boar population. About 50 years ago, 50,000 boars were killed by hunters or died in accidents annually across Germany.
Today, that number has reached 600,000, in large part because the animals have access to more food and are reproducing at a much faster rate.
Berlin is arguably Europe’s greenest metropolis. More than 40 percent of the city is covered in water, forest and leafy plots of land where swine can roam free and feast on grubs, worms and vegetation.
As the variety of that nourishment and freedom has waned in the forests, the offerings outside — particularly in the city — have become much more attractive, especially as people continue to throw garden compost into fields or leave their trash on the curb too early for pickup.