Hunters in Catalonia have hung up their guns in protest at the new regulations, which could lead to an exponential increase in the region’s already unwieldy wild boar population.
The wild boar hunting season started on Sunday and will run until March, but Catalonia’s 33,000 hunters have opposed a new rule that says they must use GPS coordinates to notify authorities in advance of the where they plan to hunt, otherwise they could lose their insurance.
Hunters complain that it is unrealistic to establish an exact point for the start of a hunt when the animals are in motion.
Anna Sanitjas, head of the local forestry commission, said the measures were necessary to ensure public safety, while hunters claimed it was an attack on their freedom.
“They ask us more than anyone else and they flout our rights to use the natural environment,” Joan Espona, vice-president of the Girona hunters’ federation, told El País newspaper.
Hunters are the only predator of the animal. The indefinite strike could lead to the numbers spiraling out of control. Last year hunters killed 66,975 of the creatures, which are considered a growing pest locally, damaging woodlands and crops and making increasingly bold inroads into urban areas, Barcelona in particular.
There are around 250,000 wild boars in Catalonia, around two-thirds of them are concentrated in the northern area around Girona, but they are increasingly numerous in the Collserola, the wooded park that borders the north-western edge from Barcelona.
The 2020 Covid lockdown has been a banner year for incursions, with creatures emboldened by the lack of people on the streets.
This summer’s drought has forced animals to search for food in town, rummage through garbage cans and feed around private clinics near the Collserola.
Sanitjas said his department would offer hunters €20-25 for every wild boar hunted and brought into the food chain.
Earlier this year Barcelona City Council announced an action plan to capture more animals in the Collserola, after capturing 196 last year.
Wild boars can be aggressive, particularly when protecting their young – and at 90kg they are unlikely to blend into the urban fabric as foxes have done in many UK towns.
Hunting is in decline among young people but still ranks third among Spanish sports federations, behind football and basketball, with 334,635 licensed hunters nationwide, according to the Sports Ministry. Women represent only 1% of the members of the federation.