Wild boars are found in mountainous regions throughout Japan, particularly in primary and secondary forests of southern and Westerner Japan and along the edges of agricultural areas. In recent years they have become more numerous near Tokyo in the mountainous area of the Kanto region and on the Noso Peninsula in Chiba.

The Japanese wild boar is considered a subspecies of the Eurasian species found throughout Asia and Europe. A separate subspecies, the Ryukyu wild boars lives on from Amami Oshima south through the Nansei islands in Okinawa.

Japanese wild boars are smaller than their Eurasian cousins. Japanese wild boars average around 100 kilograms. Ryukyu boars weigh around 50 kilograms. By contrast, Siberian boars can reach 300 kilograms.

Wild boars are omnivores that like to root ad forage in the forest floor for roots, tubers, bulbs, acorns, spiders, snails, centipedes, moles, shrews, snakes, crayfish, shoots, leaves, grubs, insects, worms, crabs, fallen nuts and even frogs and poisonous snakes. Boars tend ro move along at a slow and steady pace but when disturbed are capable of running at very fast speeds. Their short legs are ideal for getting around in forests and brush but they are not very useful for getting around in deep snow. Thus they are rarely found in northern Japan.

Wild boars forage primarily at night. During the day they spend most of their time hiding in dense thickets. The presence of wild boars can be ascertained by the presence of their distinctive four-toe hoofprints and ruts and holes made by digging up tubers and roots. In marshy areas you can see the disturbed areas where they waddle in the mud.

Wild Boars and Humans in Japan

An abundance of young wild boars bones found at archeological sites dating back at least 5,000 years indicates that Japanese boars may have been at least partially domesticated back then. Fully domesticated pigs appeared suddenly about 2,000 years ago, about the same time as paddy agriculture, which indicates both rice and pigs came together from Asia.

Hunters shoot boars for sport and for varmint control. Thousands are killed each year. Boars reach sexual maturity at a young age and produce large litters so there is little danger of boars going extinct. In many places their populations are increasing. In the town of Yamada, only six were killed in 1989 while more than 700 were killed in 2006.

Many restaurants serve wild boar meat in sausages and stews. In Okayama wild boar ramen is available at local supermarkets and boar curry is served at the airport. In Kura in Hiroshima a food processing plant handles 50 to 100 boar a year.

Amagi Inoshishi-mura, a village near Shuzenji Izu in in Shizuoka, features wild boars races and shows in which wild boars climb ladders, walk across a balance beam, kick a soccer ball and jump through a hoops and are rewarded with shrimp cracker after each successful feat. The village has a boar museum and restaurants that serve wild boar ramen and soba.

In the old days “mountain whale” was a euphemism for wild game. Wild boar meat is regarded as a delicacy in Japan. Takeo, a small city in the mountains of western Saga Prefecture decided to turn its wild boar pest problem into a money maker. In 2008, wild boars there cases $140,0000 in damage to rice and bean farms and hunters killed 1.541 boars. The boars used to be buried but now are processed and sold to restaurants and supermarkets, with some of profits going to hunters who shot them. The Takeo facility opened in 2009 . It is called the Takeo Meat Processing Center for Wild Birds and Animals. Half the construction cost was covered by government subsidies.

A 100-gram piece of wild boar loin meat sells for ¥500 and 100-gram piece of wild boar ham sells for ¥400. Boar meat is marketed in Kyushu as “ yamakujira ,” or “mountain whale.” The chief of the Takeo Meat Processing Center for Wild Birds and Animals told the Yomiuri Shimbun, “The meat of female boars is rich in fat” in the winter. “We ask boar hunters to bring their catch within 30 minutes of making a kill so the meat doesn’t go off.”

In August 2003, a man died from eating raw wild boar that carried hepatitis E. Another man caught the disease from eating the same meat. Earlier two men contacted it from raw deer meat. They were the first known case of people contacting hepatitis E from wild animals.

Wild Boars as Pests in Japan

wild boar sign
Wild boar eat crops, dig away at ridges between fields and forests and damage road shoulders. They are fond of rice and a variety of vegetables. They were responsible for 26.1 percent of the ¥18.6 billion in crop damages caused by animals in fiscal 2005, more than any other animal. Farmers protect their crops from wild boars by surrounding their fields with knee-high fences of corrugated plastic or aluminum sheeting. In some urban areas they eat garbage and food purposely left for them by people. Many are caught in traps that resembles cages with a door that closes shout when the animals enters it to snatch bait.

People have been bitten and dogs have been killed in encounters with wild boars in Japanese suburbs and cities. Wild boars have even been blamed for derailing a train. Wild boars have become such common sights in some residential areas of Kobe that laws have been passed to keep people from feeding them.

The number of wild boars caught in 2005 was 65,153, about three times the number that were caught in 1997. Some were killed by hunters for sport. The majority were caught in cages and killed as pests.

Wild Boar Attacks in Japan

February 2002, the Mainichi Shimbun reported: “A wild boar attacked and seriously wounded an elderly woman in a residential area before a man drove the animal away by running into it with his car, police said. The elderly woman, 73, came across the boar, more than 1 meter in length, on a street near her home in Kitakyushu's Moji-ku. The animal attacked her left leg, causing injuries that required a major operation. The woman fell to the ground and the boar was about to strike again when a passerby drove his car into the animal, pushing it away. Shortly before or after attacking the elderly woman, the boar slightly injured a 27-year-old woman and her 4-year-old daughter. About 30 minutes later junior high school students spotted the boar heading back to the mountains, Moji Police Station officials said. They said local residents often see wild boars in the mountains but rarely spot them in town. [Source: Mainichi Shimbun, February 10, 2002]

In January 2007, four people were attacked by boars and slightly hurt in Ehime Prefecture. A 69-year-old woman was knocked down and three other people were hurt in one 15 minute period in one area. Police think that several different boars were involved.

In April 2008, a wild boar went on a rampage in Kashiwara, Osaka Prefecture, injuring five people. The boar charged a woman on a bicycle and knocked her down and then ran into a kindergarten, injuring three adults there, and injured another woman when it was emerged. Three hours later, the boar — a male weighing 80 kilograms that is believed to have come down from a nearby mountain — was found dead on a sandbar in a river.

Wild Boar Control in the Kobe Area

February 2002, the Mainichi Shimbun reported: “The Kobe Municipal Government will ban the feeding of wild boars in an effort to stop the hungry pigs streaming into town and attacking innocent people. Kobe officials received 211 complaints on wild boars visiting the town from the Rokko mountain range in 2001, four times more than in 1996, including 20 cases of the animals "hurling themselves at people." The ransacking of garbage collection sites was another common problem. [Source: Mainichi Shimbun, February 23, 2002]

In response, officials formed a panel of animal experts and local residents to discuss why so many boars invaded the streets of Kobe. The panel found that hikers in the Rokko mountains and even residents in town often feed wild boars with tasty treats such as sweet potatoes, making them unafraid of people. Another factor inviting wild boars to town was kitchen garbage left in collection sites during the night.

Based on the findings, Kobe officials will for the first time in the nation ban the feeding of wild boars and forbid the dumping of kitchen refuse in selected areas in the port city. "We want you to understand that the reason wild boars attack people is because of our own actions," one of the officials said. The officials plan to submit an ordinance bill on the ban to the municipal assembly for approval on Monday, hoping that it will take effect in May. Under the bill, violators are warned against feeding wild boars and a written letter is sent to repeat offenders. The Nikko Municipal Government and a village in Gunma Prefecture ban the feeding of apes.

Image Sources: Japan-Animals blog, ext Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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