Peter Pilz is a qualified specialist in stalking and managing wild boar – here he discusses the nature of the species, which is now present in parts of the Scottish countryside.

'The first glimpse of the field in the morning is far from pleasant. Instead of a meadow in which sheep and cattle graze, it now looks like a freshly ploughed field.

Depending on the size of the horde making these nightly attacks, the damage can quickly become the size of a rugby pitch.

The cause? A pack of wild boar searching for food ploughed up the turf with their tusks in the search for worms, moles, mice and maggots. The more they find, the more frequently they will return.

A wild boar pack consisting of females, piglets and juveniles can easily number thirty or forty and are led by the strongest female. Males are solitary and only join the females during the mating season in November-December. Piglets are born in March-April; it is possible for females to give birth twice a year with sufficient food supplies and mild weather. Adult males can weigh between 100-175kg and females 80-120kg.

Wild boars have poor eyesight, but excellent senses of hearing and smell. They are omnivores, eating everything that provides sufficient energy; for example acorns, beechnuts, corn, wheat, onions, bulbs, lambs, rabbits, worms and carcasses. They can find food in farmland, forests, fields and even domestic gardens.

Protecting crops and property from wild boar is a challenge. The obvious solution of a fence is insufficient, not to mention expensive. An adult male, or female and her pack can simply push through it or – more likely – dig underneath.

The only effective means of controlling wild boar is to increase culls and hunting. If boar associate a certain area not only with food but also with severe losses to the pack, they will be less likely to return.

However, shooting just one or two boar in a pack is insufficient. The losses must reduce the size of the pack to such an extent that the survivors associate the area with significant risk to life.

Read more: Pig farmers beg for borders to be secured against disease

The danger cannot be underestimated, and wild boar are characterised as animals which fight back. An injured boar might pretend to be dead, only to attack the hunter when he comes close. Sows will return to avenge the death of their young. Their 15cm canine teeth can not only injure but also kill a person. Therefore, it is always prudent to fire an extra shot when approaching an apparently dead animal, just in case.

Unlike other game, wild boar meat cannot be consumed without prior examination. Certain parts of the animal must be submitted for salmonella tests by a veterinarian. The meat can only be eaten following a negative test.'


Peter Pilz moved to Edinburgh from Germany in September 2020 with his Scottish wife and two sons. He holds the German hunting/stalking qualification and has stalked wild boar for many years, both from high seats and driven hunts. In the UK, he has achieved the DSC1 and DSC2 stalking qualifications, as well as the BASC Wild Boar Certificate.


Wild boar in Scotland - the facts

How many wild boar are living in Scotland’s countryside?

Wild boar are native to Scotland but were hunted to extinction by 1300 AD. Since then, captive animals have been imported from continental Europe and kept under license in zoos, private collections and on farms.

Through escapes and suspected deliberate releases, there are now at least four separate breeding populations of feral pigs in Scotland, located in Lochaber, Dumfries and Galloway and Ross-shire.

NatureScot estimates that there are at least 700 animals, and it’s possible the total population in Scotland may have reached the low thousands.

Is there ongoing research work into that population?

There’s no new work ongoing on species numbers from NatureScot. But the Scottish Government Animal Health and Welfare department is working with NatureScot to provide advice to Ministers about the risks that feral pigs pose, particularly in relation to disease transmission, and outline policy options for consideration.

Among the options NatureScot has asked ScotGov to consider is a fresh effort to cull the species out of areas where it poses the most threat, as detailed in its recent report -

What does the law say? Is a licence required to shoot / manage the species?

Wild boar are former natives, which means that it is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to release them or allow them to escape. A licence is not required to shoot them as feral pigs are not a protected species.

The responsibility for controlling feral pig populations in the wild lies with individual land managers and anyone who has concerns over feral pigs should, in the first instance, contact NatureScot which will be able to provide advice.