June 3, 2016
A Bear of a Boar
- as seen by -Jonathan C. Slaght
The first time I saw a wild boar in Russia, I thought it was a bear: an arched back of matted fur pushing through the tall grasses of a meadow, then stepping into the clear understory of open oak and birch forest. I was relieved it wasn’t a bear. It was a large male boar—the kind of animal unafraid of anything—and if it noticed me, it made no visible sign that it had. The wild boar of the Russian Far East are absolutely huge—the largest of any boar subspecies—with records up to 700 pounds. That is, actually, as big as a bear.
Wild boar are the favored prey of Amur tigers, and are targets of human hunters eager to put food on their tables. But these are not beasts to be underestimated: if not killed immediately on a hunt, they often turn on their attacker rather than flee; a charging, waist-high mass swinging curved blades in the form of tusks. Hunters are occasionally slain by boar they could not kill first. A skilled hunter once told me he spied a large male boar, but did not see a suitable tree to climb if his aim was off and the boar charged, so he let the animal pass. Better to go home empty-handed than not at all.
It’s not just humans who can face the ire of a threatened wild boar: even experienced, adult tigers have been mortally injured by wild boar in miscalculated attacks.
So, next time I see something big and dark coming at me through the understory, perhaps I’ll want to hope it’s a bear after all.
Canon Rebel XTI