Villagers join in hunt for marauding wild boars: An animal which vanished from Britain hundreds of years ago is posing a new threat in Kent

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The Independent Online
MALCOLM KAY has just learnt not to hunt wild boar with a shotgun. A shotgun will not kill a wild boar; it will just annoy it.

This is one of the things Mr Kay and the people in a small corner of England are having to learn about an animal that vanished from the wild hundreds of years ago. For in a 10-square-mile area of Kent, the beast is back and in apparently significant numbers.

'One of my staff saw a group of 16 the other night - and the ones caught so far weigh up to 15 stones,' said Mr Kay, who is particularly worried about the emergence of the animals because they are threatening his business, the 100-acre Tenterden Vineyard. Large groups of wild boar have broken through wire fences and torn up the roots of 25-year-old vines, causing up to pounds 12,000 damage. Now he is afraid his herb garden, which boasts 100 rare species, could be in danger.

In the past few weeks, wild boar in the area have killed an alsatian, smashed into a car (the boar was killed) and damaged trees and plants. Groups of hunters are already gathering after dark in the villages of Tenterden and Rolvenden to hunt the animals down. They bagged two last week.

Mr Kay was warned that using a shotgun will irritate the boars and could lead to them charging. 'My staff are refusing to go into the vineyard after dusk. I've had to hire a chap with a high- powered rifle to try to get the animals,' he said. The RSPCA and animal rights groups do not want the wild boar killed. They think a few roaming free won't hurt anyone. Others are attracted by the idea of a once-indigenous species making a comeback.

Morghew Farm in Tenterden farms wild boar, but its owner, Richard Bezant, says none of his animals have escaped - they roam 'free range' in a large wooded area surrounded by an electrified fence. He also admitted that he doesn't know exactly how many wild boar he has.

One theory is that already free boar may have been drawn into the area by the presence of sows on Mr Bezant's farm.

(Photograph omitted)