Wild boar hunters in Catalonia hang up their guns to protest against new regulations

Strike could lead to sharp rise in region’s unwieldy boar population, which is estimated at 250,000

Catalonia’s hunters have hung up their guns to protest against new regulations, in a move that could lead to an exponential rise in the region’s already unwieldy wild boar population.

The wild boar hunting season began on Sunday and runs until in March but Catalonia’s 33,000 hunters have objected to a new rule that said they must use GPS coordinates to notify the authorities in advance about where they plan to hunt, otherwise they could lose their insurance.

The hunters complain that establishing an exact point for the start of a hunt when animals are on the move is unrealistic.

Anna Sanitjas, the head of the local forestry commission, said the measures were necessary to ensure public safety, while the hunters claimed it was an infringement of their freedom.

“They demand more from us than anyone else and they trample on our rights to use the natural environment,” Joan Espona, the vice-president of the Girona hunters’ federation, told El País newspaper.

Hunters are the animal’s only predator. The indefinite strike could lead to numbers spiralling out of control. Last year, hunters killed 66,975 of the creatures, which are seen locally as a growing pest, damaging woodland and crops and making ever-bolder incursions into urban areas, Barcelona in particular.

There are an estimated 250,000 wild boar in Catalonia, about two-thirds of them concentrated in the northern area around Girona but there are an increasing number in the Collserola, the woodland park that borders the north-western edge of Barcelona.

The Covid lockdown in 2020 was a record year for incursions, with the creatures emboldened by the absence of people on the streets.

This summer’s drought has forced the animals to seek food in the city, rummaging in bins and foraging around private clinics close to the Collserola.

Sanitjas said her department would offer hunters €20to €25 for each wild boar hunted and introduced into the food chain.

Earlier this year, Barcelona city council announced an action plan to capture more animals in the Collserola, having caught 196 last year.

Wild boar can be aggressive, especially when protecting their young – and at 90kg, they are unlikely to blend into the urban fabric the way foxes have in many cities in the UK.

Hunting is in decline among the young but still ranks third among Spain’s sporting federations, behind football and basketball, with 334,635 licensed hunters nationwide, according to the sports ministry. Women make up only 1% of federation members.


Stephen Burgen in Barcelona

The GuardianTramp

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