The Flemish Bow Hunting Association has proposed to help control wild boar infestations in residential areas of Limburg, according to the Belgian newspaper De Standaard.
Wild boar, which are often aggressive and can charge humans, are turning up in increasing numbers in residential areas in the region, especially in and around the city of Genk. Across the world, wild pig populations are controlled, most commonly through hunting.
Wild boar can cause massive damage to agricultural crops and can also be carriers of diseases such as African swine fever. Due to their aggression, it is not desirable to have the animals living within close proximity to humans.
When hunted, the packs typically move away from areas populated with humans, however, extended contact with human environments has only made the creatures more aggressive and unafraid of locals.
The Flemish Agency for Nature and Forest, unable to chase the animals away due to their aggressive nature, and banned by law from using firearms in residential areas, is looking for new alternatives. Bow hunting, association chairman Maasmechelaar Frank Siedentopf says, could offer a solution for keeping the aggressive animals away from homes.
“Bow and arrow is an ideal hunting tool on small plots of land and in quiet areas. But it can also be used in residential areas,” Siedentopf explained. Hunting with bow and arrow is inherently less dangerous, he argued, and better suited to the needs of Limburg.
“A firearm has a range of several kilometres, which in a residential area can lead to dangerous situations. With a bow and arrow, you can shoot from a much shorter distance. We take out targets at 20-30 metres. We also shoot from a raised platform. Once the arrow pierces the animal, it lands in the ground and no longer poses a danger to anyone,” the hunter said.
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The association's proposal is not without precedent. Bow hunting has been successfully utilised in other parts of Europe to control boar populations in residential areas. The association said that bow hunters had successfully rid wild boar from parts of Madrid.
Another benefit of boar hunting with bow and arrow is that it is quieter, and will not disturb locals. The sounds of gunfire can be heard over long distances. Clay pigeon shoots and hunts in the Belgium countryside can regularly be heard by communities many miles away.
“Another advantage of archery is that it is much quieter. A firearm easily produces 140 decibels, which is not pleasant for local residents,” Siedentopf said.
As the law currently stands, the use of bows and arrows to hunt animals in residential areas is currently banned.
“In Flanders, bow and arrow is not a legal hunting weapon currently. To fight the wild boar plague, the law will have to be changed. In Wallonia, bow hunting is not prohibited by law and is allowed,” Siedentopf said.
According to the association's estimates, there are around 1,500 bow hunters across Belgium, and the sport is on the rise. The activity is most popular in the U.S, where some 15 million bow hunters reside.
Some animal rights groups oppose the practice. In Barcelona, Spain, animal rights lawyers called on the city council to stop boar killings in residential areas, instead advocating for the use of contraceptive vaccines to cull the spread of feral hogs in wild areas.
In 2018-2019, hundreds of wild boar were hunted and shot in southern Belgium over fears they were infected with African Swine Fever. Experts fear transmission of the disease to humans, however animal rights groups say that the animals are naturally wary of humans and pose little risk of infection.