Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Le Sanglier

In the Aude* department there are about as many wild boar as people so it is not surprising that it is so much part of our lives.

The wild boar do serious damage in the vineyards starting with nibbling the buds in the spring, digging holes, ploughing up the soil and perhaps the worst damage is eating the ripe grapes just before harvest.

A hungry wild boar will stop at nothing to get to the juicy ripe grapes!

I unfortunately have been a victim of the latter!  The wild boar had a serious party in my muscat vineyard in Maury in 2011.  Wild boar are particularly partial to the sweet muscat grape.  We arrived in Maury to put up the electric fence only to find that the wild boar had devoured the whole vineyard the night before.  They hoover off the ripe grapes and leave the stalks on the vines or if the grapes aren't quite ripe enough they will just throw them on the floor.

We do what we can to protect our vineyards.  We put up electric fences on about half of our vineyards and a permanent fence as well as the electric fence on vineyards that are isolated in the middle of the garrigue. We have been told that scattering human hair helps keep the wild boar at bay but we haven't tried that yet!

This year there was less damage in the vineyards as acorns were plentiful which kept the wild boar in the wooded areas. 

It is virtually impossible to insure against wild boar damage even though it can lead to loss of harvest. The Fédération de Chasse partly compensates growers and they also help to finance fences.  On the other hand they put down grain to attract wild boar and a well fed wild boar will produce more young.  So it's rather a vicious circle.

Wild boar do have other uses apart from meat and hairbrushes.  In November the skin of a wild boar was used to cover up a speed camera on the D116 between Prades and Perpignan.  The gendarmerie concluded that it was probably the work of a hunter and closed the enquiry.

Wild boar hunting goes back to the Ancient Greeks and in Roman times a typical hunt involved surrounding a given area with large nets, then flushing the boar with dogs and immobilising it with smaller nets. The animal would then be dispatched with a short spear with a pair of barbs at the base of the blade.

So things haven't really changed here in Tuchan.  Hunters are posted in a circle of up to about 10 km radius and dogs are used to flush out the wild boar.  Spears have been replaced by rifles. 
In Tuchan the hunt is very much a social scene with meetings 3 times a week from September to January and hunting lasting the best part of the day 
I’m glad to say there are also a couple of women hunters too!

In the Aude department where we live around 18 000 wild boar will be hunted this year.

And that brings me rather nicely to our favourite local dish – wild boar stew !

*Aude department 2370 square miles
Population 360 000
Density 150 people per square mile