March of the Pigs

The sun is setting. I’m belting along a dirt track through the Collserola forest, at the back of Barcelona, on a quick 30 minute ride before dinner. I go left at a fork in the road, never been down this way before. The trail corkscrews down into a valley and across a stream which leads into a pond, Panta Can Borell. I shoulder the bike and run down some steps into a gully and up the other side. My heart is beating and I’m breathing when

GROWL

What the hell! Did I make that noise with my bike? With my body, my lungs? Where did it come from? I look around for an evening walker with a giant, inhospitable dog. I’m on my own. Or maybe not. I’ve got goose pimples. What was that? A bear? A panther? No, I’m just over the hill from Barcelona. No bears here. Maybe up in the Pyreness. Can only be a senglar, a wild boar. Jesus, is that what they sound like? I edge down towards the pond, curious. There’s the sound of something moving in mud. I squint in the gloaming light. There’s branches moving in the bushes at the far side of the pond, four or five metres away. Another, unfriendly, throaty growl. Whatever it is, it’s not happy about my presence. I back up the hill, away from the pond, towards a trail marker. The growling continues. I’m hoping the beast doesn’t decide to rush me. Top of the trail, I do a cyclocross mount and heading along some single track, leaving the growling beast of Collserola behind me. But this is not the kind of trail you ride with rigid forks. Complicated enough on a mountain bike. After 10 minutes of stumbling in the dark, I’m back out on the gravel and heading for home, slightly ashamed, and thankful I didn’t have a run in with the pig, and happy to know that there’s big, wild animals doing their thing 10 minutes away from home.

You wouldn’t get the likes of that in Co. Wexford.

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Porc Senglar, Parc Natural de Collserola
People feeding porc senglar, or wild boar at the Mirador de Montbau in the Serra de Collserola, above Barcelona (1.6 million people), Catalonia, Spain. Feeding the wild pigs – which can be a dangerous activity, is actively discouraged by the authorities, as it leads to population booms, and the boar also get used to human food, meaning they come into suburban areas to feed at night. In September 2016, researchers from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) plan to start vaccinating some of the port senglars with contraceptives, to cut the population growth. Authorities estimate that the sustainable population for the Parc Natural de Collserola is around 300-400 – however, the current population is could have reached 1,500. Authorities have been hunting the pigs with dogs in order to control the population.

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