“Steven, we have a boar trapped in the flooding. Are you available for collaring?”
“…Yeah.” I say “When and where should we meet?”
“East side at around 7:00 AM. Merry Christmas!”
Without further context, this might seem like an odd and perhaps, random conversation. You see, the reason I am chasing that invasive mammal (the wild boar) around a wetland on Christmas morning is part of a large coordinated effort to document the spatial ecology of a species that we know very little about in the Northern part of the United States. The call came from the lead pig biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, a close partner and collaborator on this project.
“Pack things up Steve, the boar got out of the corral trap. It jumped over the top of the fence.” My DNR contact said with disappointment.
I drop my head in dismay. This exact event, a boar getting out of a trap, has become so typical on this research project. In just 6 months we have had boars escaping our efforts to capture them in almost every way imaginable. The one underlying take-home message is that Eurasian boar, even those that are on holiday in Michigan, are extremely clever.
I pack up my things and slowly begin my long, cold, and lonely ride through mud and thickets to reach the field truck. We pack up our things and begin our drive home from one of several disappointing excursions we’ve experienced during this project. Why are boar so challenging to catch? For one, they are extremely intelligent. They are also nocturnal and tend to avoid areas of high human activity ─ not to mention their superior sense of smell. These attributes make wild boar a relatively cryptic species and lead to many difficulties when conducting research that relies on capturing and attaching GPS collars to individual animals.
As we bump along the frozen potholed roads my mind turns to home, to dinner, and to Mom’s pumpkin pie.
My misgivings were not supported. In the first trap we found a total of 5 boars of which we were able to fit GPS collars on 2 of the larger individuals. Several hours later I’m driving an ATV across an expansive field; I’m squinting hard, and the bitter wind and heavy snow are so biting that my eyes well with tears. I am exhausted from the frenzied activity of monitoring and collaring multiple boars in the first corral trap, however, we have one more animal in a trap several miles away. I arrive at the trap and assist in collaring and drawing blood from a young female boar. We attach a GPS collar and harness that fits behind the front legs and around the torso of the animal. The harness is necessary since wild boars lack a distinct neck, and could easily slip a collar if it were not anchored by the harness. Before we pack up, I record the VHF frequency of the collar to help us locate the animal in the future using telemetry equipment.