Wild boars enjoy food handouts near Russian border
By Leena Härkönen
The first thing that one notices is the smell. A piercing aroma comes from the pitch-black forest. Then there is a blood-curdling screech, and dull thumping.
Wild boars from across the Russian border are taking an excursion again to the border zone on the Finnish side. They crowd to eat an evening snack offered by Matti Nurmi of Ylämaa.
Nurmi drives his tractor closer. Soon the lights shine on curved greyish brown backs bent over to feast on the oats spread out before them.
A few large females and more than ten growing wild piglets are among them. More of the creatures with gleaming eyes emerge from the forest.
The food is eaten with great devotion, and more or less without conflict. Whenever a little one tries to eat out of turn, the sows use their snouts to teach the upstart some manners. At times one of the young will take a wary look at the intruders, but then they recognise the tractor and calm down.
The wild boars appear almost tame, but if anyone were to step out of the tractor, the whole herd would scamper off. They are also afraid of human speech, but they appear oblivious to camera flashes.
Nurmi has been feeding the wild boars since the winter of 2003 when the first of the animals, who appeared hungry at the time, showed up in the area.
He mainly offers them oats, but food scraps are also welcomed.
"They leave the peels of oranges", Nurmi says.
The pigs have become so familiar to him that he can identify individuals. For instance, one of the females has three large scars on her side, as if she had been clawed by a bear.
This is a herd of grey boars. The sound that was made a little while ago was them chasing away a group of darker ones that were trying to move in on their territory.
"I should have set up two meals", Nurmi says, regretfully.
Although the wild boars come to eat almost every night, they are not on a strict schedule. Sometimes they can come at eight, but now it is almost midnight. Sometimes they are around at five in the morning.
After eating for two or three hours they wander back to the Russian side, where the heavier forest undergrowth offers them good protection during the day.
There are no males to be seen. During the mating season they do their duty, but otherwise they are good at walking their own paths.
No point hoping that one of these will be served up as a Christmas ham. The local hunting club has made a gentlemen's agreement to leave them alone. Anyway, access to the border zone is restricted to those with special passes.
"In our area, fewer than five wild boars are shot each year", says Arto Mäkelä of the Hujakkala hunting association.
"Contrary to what has been claimed, people here definitely do not kill every wild boar that tries to come into Finland", he states, emphatically.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 9.11.2006
LEENA HÄRKÖNEN / Helsingin Sanomat