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Human behavior is key to solving urban wild boar invasions

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The mayor of Rome was voted out of office this week, and the number one issue that led to the mayor's ouster, according to some residents of the city, was wild boars.

BERNHARD WARNER: It's become a symbol for the question around whether or not she has lost control of the city. Because what you see is families of boar, wild boar, walking down the street totally nonchalant, as if they own the place.

MARTIN: Bernhard Warner is a journalist who lives in Rome, and for many years he's been researching and writing about the rise of wild boars in European cities.

WARNER: There was a video that just went viral, and what it showed was a family of boars, the moms and their kind of large youths following them. They were walking down a major city street in Rome, and they did not mind about traffic. They did not mind about people. They were navigating in between the trash bins and hugging along in the lane of traffic.

MARTIN: Warner says that urbanization and the spread of the suburbs into the boars' natural habitats has led to more wild boars coming into contact and conflict with humans.

WARNER: In Barcelona, they had a problem, like many cities do, where there were more and more of these nuisance calls. More and more of these boars were coming down the hill from this green, forested part of the city into the downtown.

MARTIN: The boars are not just a nuisance, Warner says. They cause sanitation and health issues when they root through trash bins and dropped waste in city parks. And he says that while they're not aggressive, they are agile, very intelligent, and they can grow to about 150 pounds.

WARNER: You know, if somebody, say, coming out of a shop and there's a baguette or something like that, they will smell that. And they will approach the person, and that's when they'll harass them.

MARTIN: Harassment also happens when tourists approach the animals for selfies or get too close to a mother with young ones. But in the past year, Warner says, he has noticed something else. As the pandemic wore on and people stayed inside their homes, the population of wild boars roaming city streets also started to diminish. And he says that gives us clues about how to solve the problem of urban, wild boars.

WARNER: It is our behavior. It is our messiness. It is really us that is creating this problem.

MARTIN: Warner says that as long as the animal's natural habitat and food supply continues to dwindle, we should expect to see many more wild boars sharing our city streets. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.