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London (Reuters Life!) - Some of the first wild boar to roam free in England for 300 years have been raiding rubbish bins, attacking dogs and digging up green spaces in villages scattered around England's first national forest park.
Recent snow and icy weather has interrupted rubbish collection service in the Forest of Dean leaving tempting treats in local bins that have attracted the boar, which ordinarily forage for shoots, leaves, bulbs, worms and carrion.
Some areas in the forest, which is in the west of England close to the border with Wales, have not seen garbage collection since before the Christmas holidays.
Ecologist Martin Goulding, who holds a doctorate degree in Wild Boar Ecology, told Reuters that scavenging was a natural activity for the porcine raiders and that a rich harvest of food from the bins will encourage more boar to target trash cans.
"If people leave rubbish out then bins can be raided. If one catches onto the trick then more will join in," he said.
Goulding advised people against provoking the boar, which can weigh up to 200 kg (440.9 lb) and roam a territory of several kilometers (miles).
"As with all wild animals there is an element of unpredictability so don't go winding them up," he said.
Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Review local newspaper Deputy Editor Mark Bristow said that the boar -- who have attacked dogs and rooted up gardens looking for food -- have divided local opinion over how to address the problem.
"People who want them culled or eradicated, cite attacks on dogs and the mess they make to the verges and some gardens -- they go through the ground like a rotivator," he said.
But Goulding argued that the boar are indigenous creatures with a right to live in England whose activities are mostly a benefit to the environment.
"They are good for woodlands. They turn up the earth, and while this is unsightly, this refreshes the soil and encourages bio-diversity," he said.
Bristow said the boar were reintroduced to the Forest of Dean when 40 farmed animals escaped from a truck in 2004 and have swelled in numbers ever since.
Forest of Dean Deputy Surveyor and Manager Rob Guest said forest managers culled about 30 animals last year.
"Currently the idea is to reduce the boars from their current number," he said. "The problem is that we don't know how many they are."
Local resident Miles Laughton told Reuters his dog Jamo was attacked by a boar and injured in November while on a walk.
"Suddenly I heard him screaming, just screaming," Laughton said. "I ran toward the sound and saw Jamo flying through the air. He had a broken leg and there was blood in his eyes."
Natural England, who advise the British Government on conservation said in an emailed statement that wild boar disappeared in Britain around the end of the 13th century due to hunting, cross-breeding with domestic pigs and loss of woodland.
"However, escapes from wild boar farms in England have now resulted in the establishment of new feral populations here," it said.
Editing by Paul Casciato