Oh sure, they look kind of cute and fuzzy when you see a photo like the one above.
You want to know how they look even better? Like THIS:
I’m as soft as the next person, and if I had to kill my own meat I’d definitely be a vegetarian. But what we really need around here is a ‘cacciatore’ – a hunter. After ten years with nary a sign we’ve been invaded by the wild boars, known here as ‘cinghiale’ (pronounced ching-ghee-ah’-lay). They have visited and torn up each of our six fascie though, through some miracle, they have so far left the vegetable garden untouched.
Wikipedia has a great deal of information about this widely-dispersed ungulate. Some of the more interesting data are: height, averages 22-43″ (that last is almost 4′ tall at shoulder – yikes!); weight, 110-210 pounds, though in Tuscany and Liguria they tend to be larger, perhaps 180-220 pounds. They have four tusks which they keep sharp for defense and for rooting around.
And that’s the crux of our problem with the pigs – they root around like crazy, and do an amazing amount of damage to ground and crops in a short period of time.
They tend to be crepuscular or nocturnal, so we don’t see them that often. But we know when they’ve been here. Plants are uprooted, there are big dirt holes where there used to be none, and there is a wild and pungent smell that is unmistakable (and not very pleasant).
They are more nimble than you’d imagine. The photo above shows the chewed up edge of a wall where the pigs have scrabbled up from the fascia below.
As far as I know they don’t actually climb trees, but they will certainly stand up tall and break branches if there is something there they want (in the case above, it was some plums – see previous post).
This year brought us a banner crop of apricots, most of which we harvested. A lot of spoiled ones fell on the ground, and there were a lot left at the top of the tree which we couldn’t reach. We were surprised that the cinghiale didn’t eat the groundfalls on the their early visits, choosing instead to dig trenches around other trees. Then one day last week Speedy went out to the apricot tree to get some fruit for lunch. There was no sign of an apricot anywhere. Everything on the ground had been vacuumed up, and the tree, which had been madly speckled yellow with fruit the night before showed nothing but green leaves, not a fruit to be seen. Turns out these rascals know how to butt the trees to get the very ripe fruit to fall. And they’re smart enough to wait until the fruit is very ripe to do it. Speedy couldn’t believe his eyes; he just stood there staring, wondering if he was looking at the wrong tree. But no. The thieves had come and taken everything.
We asked a lot of people what could be done. The obvious solution is to fence the property. But this is Italy! In order to put up a permanent fence, we are told, we would have to do a ‘project’, complete with geometra, plans, town approval and so forth. It seems a daunting prospect, in addition to sounding very expensive. Introducing natural predators might be a solution, but somehow I think the town fathers would take a dim view if we imported tigers, wolves and, for the piglets, pythons.
Simone, who keeps our motorini running smoothly, said he had heard that the pigs don’t like shade cloth and olive nets, and that if we were to build a not terribly high fence of one or the other of these, the pigs would not come in. Worth a try, we thought.
We did this on the two points where we surmised the pigs were gaining access, and for three nights we had no visitors. Then they came back and tore up two upper fascie. My theory is they simply walked down the steps from the street above our house to get there, but we don’t really know.
There is a hunting season in the fall, and we hear a lot of gunshots, but I don’t think there’s any way the hunters can keep up with the exploding population of cinghiale. They are well adapted to suburban and country life, and the sows produce two litters a year of from anywhere between three and fourteen piglets. They are, in short, a nuisance.
I’m sure there is a solution to our problem (see ‘fence’ above) and no doubt we’ll resign ourselves to it one of these days. In the meantime our property is beginning to look like a Christo exhibition. And I just know that those damn pigs are watching the garden and waiting for the tomatoes to ripen.