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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 February 2008, 13:28 GMT
Culling guidance over wild boar
Wild boar - file photo
Boars are living wild in Devon after being released from farms
Guidance on how to cull wild boar has been issued by the government.

Defra's policy and action plan offers advice on managing the feral boar populations.

Biodiversity Minister Joan Ruddock said it was important local communities and landowners were allowed to decide for themselves if a cull was necessary.

But there are fears it could lead to an increase in boar hunting in Devon where numbers have increased after animals escaped or were released from farms.

I'm terribly worried the boar are going to be persecuted and they don't deserve it
John Walker, farmer

Inspector Nevin Hunter, the wildlife liaison officer for Devon and Cornwall Police, said the animals were not a protected species.

"There is no legal protection for wild boar, so there is nothing to stop a landowner shooting them," he told BBC News.

But he warned that anyone hunting boar without the express permission of the landowner could be charged with trespassing.

Defra has ruled out a government-led cull because it believes the damage boar cause is low, but said it would provide support and guidance for local communities and landowners.

"The government's support will help them make the right decisions for where they live," Ms Ruddock said.

The guidelines include information on which firearms should be used to shoot boar if they become a nuisance and advice on ensuring feral wild boar meat is safe to eat.

Welfare concerns

But John Walker, from Bramblewood Farm, near Holsworthy, who used to farm wild boar until animal rights campaigners released his herd into the countryside, said he was concerned with the animals' welfare.

"I'm terribly worried the boar are going to be persecuted and they don't deserve it," he said.

"I've personally had to shoot two wounded boar in the last month or so, that have been shot and wounded in the woods."

Ms Ruddock said the government would review its action plan in three years, but risk assessments showed wild boar did not pose a threat to the environment, farming or public safety.

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