So, I saw a wild deer in the patchy woods near Pudsey in 2000. Who hasn't, right? Loads of people I bet. I've seen red deer in Scotland of course, and I saw a deer of some sort (roe I think) on Kettle Ness (Ness; another Viking word), out on the North Yorkshire coast, three years ago, right on the clifftops in a deserted quarry. Pretty rural place that though, so not entirely unexpected. This is Kettle Ness. It's a haunted place, believe me...
Sorry, wrong species! That was a roe slug, and looking very pleased with itself. THIS (below) is a roe deer...Not only is it a roe deer buck (ie a male), but it is majestically leaping. Deer like to majestically leap. It's one of their distinguishing characteristics. Slugs don't usually leap, unless startled. You should never startle a slug.
Et maintenant...as I said last week, our house in Sheffield backs onto the woods. Pretty empty of wildlife you'd think, being so urban and populated by dirty voyeuristic tramps, according to my mum ("make sure you close your curtains at night!"). But are they really wildlife deserts?? Read on, and enlightenment will follow......
We have two cats, both a bit advanced in years, and when we moved them here from some West Sheffield shit hole, the light and the space of Carr Woods really put the zap on their heads. The eldest, a sedate ginger tom called Barney, that's Mister Barney to you! never goes beyond the back garden. His eyesight ain't so good n' his hearin's not worth two penn'orth o' copper. When he was younger, he used to catch feckin' badgers! Once brought home a whole baby. Left it behind the sofa and we never noticed 'til the stink got bad. Still, it fetched a few carrion birds to the bird table.
One day I'm sittin' on the sofa stroking Barney, he's on my knee, right? And I feel this thing, I dunno, it chilled me to the fuckin' bone, shouldn'ta bin there, ya get me? I peer into his fur and fuck me, he's got a Deer Tick, the size of a Muscat Grape, on his neck! There must've been more blood in the fuckin' tick than there was in Barney!
So anyhow, I try to twist it out and it breaks in half, like they always do, but I dig out the head with my fingernail and Barney's ok; probably never knew it was even there. See this here, on the right? That's what the little bastards look like, sucking human blood. Actual size.
But it got me ta thinkin', where'd he get the dirty little arachnid bastard from? Like I say, never goes outside the back garden, so he must've picked it up there. A Deer tick. Ever see a deer tick up real close? No?
Looks like one of the mine robots from Descent II don't it? This one was the size of a hamster. Jude's worst fuckin' nightmare.
So maybe a fox carried it and it dropped off the fox there, in the long grass. God knows there's enough foxes out there, puttin' the fear into the women with their murderous screaming. Vixens. Lotsa ultravixens down there in the valley, YA LISTENIN' RUSS?! You educated this poor boy I tell ya. Must blog on Tura Satana (right) sometime soon.
But even foxes don't roam all that far. Even a fox had to have got that tick somewhere nearby. So there must be deer around, see? Even though these woods are constantly patrolled by Southern Comfort style inbred vigilante groups of dog walkers and frowning teens and masturbating tramps, so worn down there's more path than woods, there are deer, out there. If only the tick coulda talked before it croaked. What tales it coulda told!
So. We have deer. They're out there. Watching us. I can feel their eyes. I'll never be able to have sex in the woods again now.
But you know what? It's not the deer I'm excited about. It's something else. The deer have always been there, only we didn't realise. Deer are nice, and deer are kind of exciting, but deer are cropdusters. What I'm talkin' 'bout is a fuckin' English Electric Lightning, (you gotta know your planes here)! C'mere...[whispers] Wild Boar!
By 1700, Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) were officially extinct in Britain, having been mercilessly hunted for sport and food, and treated as a pest of agricultural land. They lingered on and even thrived on the continent however, and are far more common there than we realise. There's even a huge population, hundreds strong, living in the parks and urban woods of Berlin! Uberpigs!
So what does a Wild Boar look like? The 1984 Australian "horror" film Razorback, based on the novel by Stephen King (he must cringe at the very mention) depicts them as slavering, intelligent monsters, bent on death and destruction. It's like Jaws on trotters. Actually the film's not that bad, and pigs can be nasty; allegedly lots of people have been eaten by domestic varieties. They're omnivores, see, just like us. They'll eat anything, so long as it won't kill 'em. Even doner kebabs.
Just. Like. Us.
Well guess what? They're back. Having been for a 300 year vacation in their overseas villas, they came back, posing initially as farmed animals for the meat market. But they're smart, these boar. Oh they're smart alright. I knew kids at school who weren't that smart. Yeah, and pretty soon, they were escaping, back into the countryside they'd vacated back in medieval times, settin' up home like they owned the fuckin' place. Occasionally you'd see it on the news, when a particularly newsworthy escape took place, like the one in Devon a couple of years back, where a load of them got out. Big animals, wild boar, but most of those escapees are still out there. Like I said. Smart.
Officially, they don't exist. Their presence is hushed up, kept quiet, despite the fact that they have established breeding populations in several areas, mainly down South, and are now, like it or not, a part of the ecology of our woodlands once again. And why not? They belong there. OK, there are no wolves now, their main natural predator, to keep them in check, but that's another story. Don't get me started on wolves! So no predators. Just us. Just man. I think that's enough, if the populations get out of hand. Which is unlikely. These aren't like deer herds. Boar aren't herd animals.
Here is a wild boar, and I mean wild boar, family in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.
And here's one seen in Somerset.
Personally, I welcome them. People have complained that they've dug up gardens and farmland. Well, given the vast surplus of crops that our nation's farmers produce, I think it's a bit ripe to whinge that wildlife is helping itself to a tiny percentage of it. Similarly, i love my garden, but if a piece of spectacular wildlife wants to come in and dig it up and eat my vegetables, I'll thrill to see the wildlife, then replant, and if I'm that bothered, put up a boar-proof fence, just as I'd have a fox-proof one if I kept chickens. Science du rockette it is not.
Wanna know more? Check out http://www.britishwildboar.org.uk/ the site run by Dr Martin Goulding, devoted entirely to the return of Wild Boar to Britain. It's an amazing site, and is full of all the information, and lots of free opinion, both pro and anti. It'll tell you all you need to know. Check out the sightings list. They are everywhere!
From the site comes this sighting report, from SHEFFIELD. They're heeeere!
"Just like to report a sighting.
There were four of us in the car Sunday night 8th Oct . I saw something crossing the road in front of us and was a bit dumb-struck. A minute later, I said " did anybody see what I just saw"? My husband and friends husband looked at me gone out, my friend Melanie turned to me and said "what the hell was that" Our respective partners thought we were pulling their legs when we described what we saw. However we didn't even know what we'd seen. I couldn't even think of an animal that fit it's profile. However, after talking to people and viewing the photos on your site, we're both pretty convinced that it was a boar that we saw. The location of the sighting was close to Ecclesall Woods in Sheffield.
There's no other sightings in Sheffield on your site, hope to see more soon."
Courtesy of Dr Martin Goulding's site. Thanks Martin.