Photo: Michal Renčo
Where we live it is unbelievably quiet. Most of the time the only things you can hear are the humming of the bees on the flowers, the occasional call of a magpie or a tractor plowing a field across the valley. But at night it is absolutely silent.
Except for this September. Every evening after we arrived we could hear someone, or something, crashing around in the woods on the other side of the field from our house. Our daughter, who had come with us for a few days, was sleeping under the stars on our roof deck. She reported that the crashing went on most of the night and was accompanied by loud crunching, grunting and snorting. She said the sound was so loud she thought that whatever it was was right below her in our garden.
We began to suspect that what we were hearing was wild boar. The woods near our house is actually a walnut grove, and the crunching we were hearing was the boar chowing down on the nuts. Which also explains why we had never heard them in the spring or summer.
I was determined to see them with my own eyes to confirm our suspicion. The problem is that boar are nocturnal creatures so it is unusual to see them in the daytime. I stationed myself by our fence at dusk and was rewarded with a sighting of six or seven cinghiali of various sizes roaming the field at the edge of the walnut grove. What a thrill for this nature girl!
We haven’t heard them lately so we assume they have polished off the walnuts and moved on to greener pastures. We’ll look forward to their visit next fall.
After seeing the boar up close I was inspired to read up on them, and learned some interesting stuff:
There are over 2 million wild boar in Italy, They are ubiquitous to the point that they are considered invasive in some areas. I stumbled across a wild video of a woman being accosted by a family of boar who steal her groceries in the parking lot of a Rome supermarket.
Adult boar are large: males can weigh up to 375 lbs., while females are 175 lbs. or more. They have bad eyesight and short legs but they are fast runners and good swimmers. Lifespan is between 15 and 20 years.
They are omnivorous like their domestic pig cousins, eating mostly plants, fruit, nuts and berries, as well as worms, slugs, small reptiles and even carrion.
The females live in small groups, called sounders, with their piglets. Males are solitary except during breeding season (November-January) when they go looking for females with whom to mate. They use their sharp tusks to do battle with their rivals in the mating game. There are usually 4-6 piglets in a litter and they are adorable, with reddish brown coloring and creamy stripes. They become independent at around 7 months.
Other than humans, who can hunt boar from November to May, the boar’s only natural predator is the wolf, who typically preys on the piglets.