Wild boars (Latin name: Sus scrofa) are originally distributed in Europe, North Africa and parts of Asia. The animals prefer to live in areas with soft soil and good food supply. Deciduous and mixed forests offer ideal conditions for wild boars in terms of shelter and food. But what do wild boars actually prefer to eat? In this guide, you will learn interesting facts about the feeding behavior of wild boars.
Omnivore wild boar
Wild boars, like domestic pigs, are omnivores. Wild boars feed on grasses, roots, mushrooms, grains, fruits and shoots. But also insects, mollusks, small rodents, birds, eggs or carrion are part of their natural diet.
In Central European countries such as Germany, the following components are among the main foods of wild boars in natural habitats:
Because feral pigs quickly dispose of fallen game and carrion, they serve as “health police” in the wild.
The doe nurses the babies for about three months. In the process, the young animals can also eat solid food after only a few weeks. In this way, the gastrointestinal tract of the young pigs slowly gets used to the food of adult wild boars.
Things to know about the foraging of wild boars
A significant difference regarding food results from the chosen or assigned habitat. If the animals live in areas where cereals, fruits or vegetables are grown, the grown serves as a main component of the diet.
Because wild pigs have a wide diet, they can adapt quickly to changing food supplies.
To prepare for the cold winter, wild boars build up a layer of fat in good time, preferring to eat fattening fruits such as beechnuts and acorns. The milder a winter, the greater the increase in offspring, as more young survive.
Wild boars, which can weigh up to 250 kilograms, have no natural enemies except for bears and wolves.
The sensory organs of the wild boar
The sense of smell
The most important sensory organ for finding food in wild boars, as in domestic pigs, is the proboscis. The animals’ olfactory organ is a combination of nose and digging tool. The olfactory cells located in the trunk are so well developed that pigs can sniff out food up to a depth of half a meter. The smelling ability of pigs is thus better than that of dogs.
Humans take advantage of the fine pig nose by using pigs for the following activities:
- Detecting drugs
- Showing valuable truffles
- The sense of taste
The wild boar’s sense of taste is also well developed. Thus, companions of the truffle pig must take the treat from the animal as quickly as possible so that they do not eat the valuable mushroom. They can even distinguish between different types of potatoes in terms of taste. For example, they particularly like starchy potato varieties.
Pigs perceive poisonous plants and stay away from them.
The sense of hearing
Wild boars’ hearing is also well developed so that they can react to impending danger in good time. In addition, their sensitive ears are useful to them in contact with each other: they are able to recognize the individual voices within the herd.
The sense of sight
Vision, on the other hand, is quite weak: animal researchers have found that wild boars and domestic pigs are short-sighted. However, they can see better at dusk than we humans because they have more rods in the retina of the eye. The eye lies deep in the bony skull so that it is protected when the animals are out in the undergrowth.
The sense of touch
Once a pig or wild boar has found food above or below ground, it uses its trunk to move it into position. Or it uses its claws and trunk to uncover tubers and roots, for example.
The proboscis disc and upper lip are covered with very fine tactile hairs. Nevertheless, the proboscis serves as a robust tool for digging. The wild boar also feels well with its tongue and lower lip. They can be used, for example, to pick up individual grains or larvae from the ground.
Problems for farmers due to field damage
Their powerful digging makes wild boars unpopular with farmers and foresters. In many regions of Europe, wild boar cause serious damage to fields while foraging. Hungry wild boars unfortunately have no regard for carefully planted plantations and other cultivated areas.
If the winter remains mild, even weaker young animals have a good chance of surviving the cold season. The larger the herds, the more damage to the fields can be expected. While the foraging of wild boars in forests is mostly more of a soil loosening activity, the digging up and eating of plants and seeds on arable land leads to considerable damage. At the same time, the animals are not choosy. They eat all crops that farmers in Central Europe cultivate. The affected farmer must apply for compensation from the relevant hunting cooperative. Usually, not only the visible damage is compensated, but also consequential damage.
Nor do the animals stop at idyllic-looking forest and park areas. After all, they are omnivores and dig up what smells good to them and appears edible. Apart from plant parts, this can also be caterpillars, worms or mice.
Wild boars in private gardens
Private garden owners are also less than thrilled about the visits of wild pigs to their properties. As nice as it is to live in the immediate vicinity of a forest, the appearance of wild boars, which leave clear traces in the previously well-kept garden, is very annoying. With their strong snouts, the pigs break up the soil in search of food. Often cultivated lawns and freshly planted beds fall victim to the powerful snouts. Wild pigs, for example, love to eat spring bloomers such as tulips or snowdrops and have no regard for gardening.
If you own a property that is close to a forest, it is best to install a sturdy fence. With a fence, you keep the wild boar out. To prevent wild boars from undermining the fence, you should bury it at least 30 centimeters deep into the ground. There are pasture fences available at specialty stores that are suitable for wild boar defense.
Regardless of where you encounter feral hogs, remember that these animals can be defensive and fast – even if they are generally peaceful. An attack on humans is likely when boar are looking to mate and when sows are looking to defend their young.
In Europe, only hunters and hunting tenants are allowed to shoot wild boar.
According to § 2 of the Federal Hunting Law, the wild boar is one of the animal species subject to hunting rights and may be hunted. As a rule, wild boar have a closed season from February to June.
If you are renting, it is the landlord’s responsibility to implement appropriate protection measures against wild boar, such as erecting a suitable fence.
In some zoos and wild animal enclosures you have the opportunity to feed wild pigs. Often they offer special wild animal feed that you can buy on site. This is usually pellets that contain grains, alfalfa and molasses, for example.
Under no circumstances should you give a wild boar scraps of your food. After all, a sausage sandwich, French fries or ice cream are not just food that is not appropriate for the species. At worst, the leftovers contain ingredients that are incompatible for the pig or pathogens.