This past week, I went on a wild boar hunt. Not the kind that one might imagine in Italy, tromping through the Tuscan forest carrying a rifle. No, this hunt was in the city of Rome, armed with cameras.
We were working on a story on the invasion of wild boars in the city. Large families of boars have been emerging in packs of 10-30 from the parks around the city, scavenging in and around dumpsters, and wandering the city streets looking for food.
This actually is not new, The boars have been making appearances for years now. But recently the incursions seem to be increasing and the citizens of Rome have become steadily more exasperated, posting video of families of boars marching through Roman traffic almost oblivious to the cars, mopeds, and people around them.
(Note: The video at the top of the post I did with my cell phone last Friday, September 12. The snorting boar below is a 3 second clip shot by AP video journalist Fanuel Morelli on the same evening. I love the snorting)
I wasn’t paying much attention until my friend Liliana, the administrator of the Foreign Press Association in Rome, told me that she went to get some takeout pizza for her family and had to make a run for her car as a family of boars chased her across the parking lot. Her heart was pounding as she barely managed to slam the car door safely with the hot pizzas in hand.
Liliana’s story was similar to a video making the rounds since this summer of a woman being chased around a supermarket parking lot by a family of boars until she finally tossed them her bag of shopping.
With local elections coming up next weekend, Rome’s mayor, Virginia Raggi, has become the lightning rod for the wild boar complaints. Indeed, the city government is responsible for garbage collection and Rome’s constantly overflowing trash bins provide an endless feast for flocks of aggressive seagulls, and families of wild boars.
So we decided to do a story on it for AP.
A fearless AP team headed out around 4pm to a neighborhood known for its wild boars. We talked to parents and grandparents picking their kids up at school. I spoke to a 79-year-old grandmother named Grazia who said she thought she had seen it all and didn’t think she was afraid of anything, but she now fears getting trapped between a dumpster and a wild boar when she takes out the trash.
A local restaurant owner said they come tromping through the outdoor area of his restaurant most every night around closing time, snorting around for bits of food.
The locals residents sent us off to the end of the street where a line of dumpsters stood outside an apartment complex. “They show up for appetizers around 5pm” Liliana told me. So we walked down to the dumpsters and sat across the street on the curb waiting.
After about ten minutes I said I would walk up the street a bit to see if they were coming out anywhere else along the fence bordering the Park dell’Insugherato. I took about 10 steps and – YIKES – a huge wild boar appeared from behind a car right across the street from me. He, or she, was big and hairy was looking right at me. You can’t believe how fast I scurried right back to my colleagues and stupid behind them. (I guess I would never make it as a war correspondent, I can’t even make a decent boar correspondent). The big boar happily crossed the street snorting away, followed by a large group of little ones and another two big boars.
I discovered that they key person in Rome for the wild boar information is Maurizio Giubbiotti, the man responsible for the Lazio region’s parks. He explained that as long as the boars remain in the parks, they are the region’s problem. When they go urban centers in search of trash they become the city’s problem. This explains for the finger-pointing between the mayor’s office and regional government offices.
Rome is one of the greenest cities in Europe with a total of 84 hectares ( 200,000 acres) of park space and Giubbiotti said there are about 6,000 boars living in the city’s parks Several hundreds of those are emerging from the parks on a daily basis to wander around the streets hunting for food.
For the past two years, the regional government has been working to eliminate them by setting up traps in the parks and since 2019 they have captured roughly 700 wild boars which have been given to the meat industry. (Remind me not to eat any more wild boar salami in Rome – definitely don’t want to be eating the meat of something that has been feeding on my garbage).
Giubbiotti said he believes that they will have to increase the numbers of boars they are trapping to 1,000 per year to bring the situation under control. We spoke to animal rights activists who are against the killing of the boars saying the best solution would be to capture them and move them to protected areas far from the, possibly also sterilizing them.
But government officials are not taking that option into consideration at the moment, partly because the wild boar situation is not just a Rome problem, they are a huge problem across the country. Italy’s agriculture lobby, Colidretti, told us that there are more than 2 million wild boars in Italy that ransack farmlands digging for roots and eating up crops causing over 200 million euros a year in damages.
In Italy’s rural areas, parts of Tuscany, Abruzzo, Umbria and Veneto to name a few, hunting wild boar is a popular sport and most Italians can spew off a long list of their favorite wild boar dishes including wild boar salami, pappardelle pasta with boar sauce, and wild boar stew. But that does not mean they like meeting them when they go to take out the trash.
Wild Boars can weigh up to 100 kilos (220 pounds), reach 80 centimeters (2.6 feet) in height and measure 150 centimeters (5 feet) long, not exactly the kind of animal that you want your child walking past on the way home from school or when you got out to pick up a pizza.
As it got dark, we moved away from the corner with the long row of dumpsters and to another part of the neighborhood where we found other family groups trotting around in the dark, running across streets in front of cars and mopeds and treating the city as their stomping ground.