Wild boars, also known as wild hogs or feral pigs, are found worldwide, including in many parts of the United States. They are non-native, invasive animals that can cause extensive damage to crops, landscaping, and ecosystems.
Wild boars appear small and cute but can be extremely dangerous if provoked.
When hiking, the chances of encountering a wild boar are relatively low. But it’s still important to educate yourself on rough boar safety, just in case. This knowledge could prevent serious injury or even save your life one day.
We’ll go over how to identify wild boar signs, avoid startling them, and what to do if you have an up-close wild boar encounter while on a hike. With this information, you can hike and explore the outdoors more confidently if boars inhabit the area.
Wild Boar Identification and Behavior
- Adult wild boars typically weigh between 100-400 lbs. They have a stout, muscular build with coarse hair that can be black, brown, red, or grayish. Both males and females have tusks.
- Piglets have light brown or reddish stripes down their backs.
- Boars travel in small family groups called “sounders.” There are usually 1-3 sows and 6-12 piglets per group.
- Males over two years old typically live alone. They are territorial and only join sounders during mating season.
- Wild boars rely heavily on their sense of smell and hearing vs. eyesight. Their eyes are small relative to their body size.
- They have an omnivorous diet, eating plants, roots, nuts, berries, worms, insects, frogs, eggs, dead animals, and more.
- Boars need to eat often due to their fast metabolism. They spend about 75% of their day rooting around for food.
- If threatened, they will charge with tusks lowered. Adult boars are powerful enough to injure or kill someone when they feel cornered.
Signs of Wild Boars in the Area
If you’re hiking in an area populated by wild boars, keep an eye out for the following signs:
- Tracks – Hoofprints resemble a pig’s but are more extensive. Look for ways around muddy areas. They can have pointed or more rounded tips depending on the terrain.
- Droppings – Look for piles of loose brown scat, usually containing pieces of plant matter or insects. They are tube-shaped and can be several inches long.
- Tusk marks – Look for gashes on tree trunks about 18-30 inches off the ground. Territorial male boars sharpen their tusks on trees.
- Wallows – Flattened areas of soil where boars roll and coat themselves in mud to stay calm.
- Grunts and squeals – Boars use various oinks, snarls, and growls to communicate with their sounder.
- Digging – Look for disturbed soil and rooted-up vegetation where boars have been foraging.
If you spot ample evidence of wild boars, proceed with additional caution and keep your eyes peeled. There may be a sounder nearby.
How to Avoid Startling Wild Boars on a Hike
Wild boars have poor eyesight but excellent hearing and sense of smell. Their hair-trigger fight-or-flight response kicks in quickly if they are surprised. Here are some tips to avoid startling them:
- Announce your presence by talking, singing, or occasionally clapping as you hike. This lets them hear you coming from a distance.
- Avoid applying scented products like mosquito spray, sunscreen, or perfumed deodorant. Anything that smells unfamiliar may make boars suspicious if they catch a whiff.
- Always keep dogs leashed in boar territory. Loose dogs can chase or corner a boar, triggering an aggressive response. The board will see the dog as a threat, not you.
- Give any boars you spot from a distance plenty of space. Detour around rather than approaching for a photo or closer look.
- Never corner or crowd a boar against a hillside, rock wall, or tree. Always leave them an escape route.
- Stay between a sow and her piglets. She will ferociously defend them.
Remaining calm and non-threatening goes a long way in preventing a defensive attack from a boar. Give them space, don’t surprise them, and do not approach piglets.
What To Do if a Wild Boar Charges You:
- Immediately, look for the nearest tall, sturdy tree to climb out of the boar’s reach rapidly. Climb at least 10-15 feet high.
- If no climbable trees are available, check for boulders or other elevated surfaces you can stand on top of.
- Deploy bear spray ahead of the charging boar if you have it available. Aim for the eyes and nose. The pepper irritant may distract or momentarily deter the attack.
- If you cannot escape, stand your ground, waving arms, yelling aggressively, and preparing to fight back. Use any stick or rock as a weapon when the boar is within range.
- As a last resort, cover your vitals, like the neck, with your backpack or clothing if possible to protect from tusk slashes.
- Do not run away, as this will trigger the boar’sboar’s chase instinct. Running is only an option if you’re very close to a vehicle or building where you can take instant refuge.
Wild Boar Encounter FAQs:
Do wild boars attack humans?
Boars generally avoid confrontation when possible but can attack if they feel cornered or if a female defends her young. Provoking a boar in any way or getting between a sow and piglets is extremely dangerous.
Can you outrun a wild boar?
No. Despite their stubby legs, wild boars can sprint up to 30 mph. They’re much faster than any human over a short distance. Never turn your back and run from an aggressive boar; it will instinctively chase you down.
What smell do boars hate?
Strong odors like pine oil or ammonia may help deter wild boars. Some anecdotal reports suggest mothballs or ammonia-soaked rags can be hung along known boar trails. But there is no scent proven to drive away or repel wild boars. Their keen sense of smell also makes this strategy somewhat dubious.
What time of day are boars most active?
Wild boars are most active in the early morning and evening around dusk when they leave cover to search for food. However, they will also forage during the day if hungry. Female boars must eat more frequently when nursing piglets so they may be active at all hours.
How long do boars live?
Around 8-10 years on average in the wild. Some exceptional boars have been reported to live past age 20. Survival depends heavily on predators, hunting, food availability, and cold extremes in their environment. Protected boars in captivity can live even longer.
Hiking in wild boar territory certainly adds an extra element of adventure. But dangerous encounters can be avoided with proper precautions like making noise on the trail, giving boars space, and not approaching piglets.
Stay alert for boar signs like tracks and droppings, and detour around any boars sighted from a distance. Should the unthinkable happen, remain calm and back away slowly.
Never run, or you may trigger an attack. Fight back aggressively if escape is impossible. While otherwise shy creatures, wild boars are fierce when threatened.
Following wise precautions will allow avid hikers to keep exploring while avoiding tusks or trauma when boars inhabit the region. Use sound judgment if you see What To Do If You See A Wild Boar while on the trail.
Wild Boar Encounter – Quick Takeaways:
- Watch for tracks, droppings, and other boar signs when hiking in their territory
- Make noise on the trail to avoid startling boars
- Give any spotted boars a wide berth, and do not approach
- Never run from a boar, as it will trigger a chase
- Climb a tree or boulder if possible to escape a charging boar
- If there is no escape, stand your ground and prepare to fight back aggressively
- Use sticks, rocks, bear spray to defend yourself if attacked
- Do not position yourself between a sow and her piglets
- Stay calm, move slowly, and leave boars an escape route