I’m volunteering to help reduce Italy’s out-of-control wild boar population

wild boar babiesThey’re calling my name, those beautiful hills of Tuscany, where wild boar and deer are chowing down on the grape vines and grapes and endangering my favorite wines.

A friend sent me the news story, written by Gaia Pianigiani and published in the New York Times on March 7, which started out this way:

GAIOLE IN CHIANTI, Italy — Fences are rising. There is talk of a brutal and destructive insurgency, invasions and a slaughter that could include hundreds of thousands in the years ahead. If that sounds something like a war, the battlefield is the prized vineyards of Chianti, Italy’s vaunted wine region in the heart of the rolling hills of Tuscany.

And the enemy? An exploding population of voracious wild boars and deer that savor the sugary grapes and the vines’ tender sprouts, but that are also part of the region’s famed landscape, hunting traditions and cuisine.

Yikes! The wild boar population in Tuscany is four times larger than anyplace else in Italy, totaling more than 400,000 today. They hope to reduce the population to 150,000 animals.

Linda and I love Tuscany, where we rent an apartment in a small family winery in the hills above the market-town of Greve, about 30 minutes south of Florence. We’ve written about our trips to Italy a couple of times in our Travelin’ Maine(rs) column published every Sunday in the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, and have now helped over 40 Mainers to schedule a visit to Tuscany featuring a stay in Greve.

And I can verify that wild boar are everywhere. Last year about 10 pm we heard some rustling outside our apartment window. Looking out, we saw 8 baby boars rummaging in the flower garden below our window, the two sows standing by about 50 feet away. We’ve also seen wild boar on our daily walks in the hills surrounding Greve.

Reducing the population

The damage being done to the vineyards is estimated to be “$11 million to $16 million a year in lost harvest,” reported Pianigiani. “There are also the costs of erecting and keeping up fences, which have proved controversial because of criticism that they mar the beauty of the Tuscan countryside.”

The solution? They’ve extended the regular three-month wild boar hunting season, of course! The extension includes fallow deer, with some restrictions. Most wild board hunters use dogs to chase the boars out of the forest to a waiting line of shooters. There is no bag limit. They can also use bait to draw the boars out.

Not surprising given our two battles in Maine over bear baiting, some folks in Italy are upset that hunters can leave bait out to lure their prey, “a practice that environmentalists and winegrowers blame for contributing to the exploding of the boar population and for drawing the animals into fields where they wreak havoc,” reports Pianigiani.

I’m stepping up

It just so happens that Linda and I will be in Greve this year, in the midst of the wild boar hunting season, and I’m thinking I should alert Allessandro, our host at the winery, that I’ll be happy to help reduce that wild boar population!

At the very least, they can count on me to eat a lot of wild boar when we are there. During last year’s two week trip, I enjoyed a wild boar dinner 8 times! It can’t be beat.

If you’d like to read Pianigiani’s entire article, here it is.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.