How to Scare Off a Feral Hog Whether You're Naked or Not

On Wednesday, a naked sunbather chased a wild pig who had stolen his laptop across the picnic grounds of a lakeside park in Berlin, Germany. The latest in a spate of encounters between humans and an exploding population of wild boar worldwide (attributable in part to warmer winters), the naked man's chase ended more happily—he got his laptop back—than many confrontations with the potentially dangerous wild animals, which kill substantially more people annually than do sharks.

"The one thing people need to remember is that these are wild animals," Jack Mayer, a research scientist at the Savannah River National Laboratory in South Carolina, told Newsweek in a telephone interview. "Especially in Europe, they have had an increase in attacks in suburban and urban areas because people try and go up and pet them and feed them. They are wild animals, treat them like wild animals."

This naked man went on a wild boar chase through a German park after a hog stole his laptop bag. The man, who was partaking in the naturist German tradition, eventually got his bag back pic.twitter.com/GsCGzY0Wlb

— NowThis (@nowthisnews) August 7, 2020

Mayer, who has studied wild pigs for more than 40 years, authored a 2013 paper titled "Wild Pig Attacks on Humans," which surveyed 412 different attacks for commonalities. During his years of research, Mayer has examined more than 20,000 specimens of wild pig. He identified a number of factors that can contribute to a run-in with a wild pig turning dangerous, or even fatal.

"Attacks by wild pigs on humans are a very rare event, absolutely, but it does happen," Mayer said. "One of the main causes is a sudden close encounter, where you've accidentally entered that flight-or-flight distance and the pig mounts a response."

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Most wild boar will run away when confronted with people, like this one near Candelaria, Texas, photographed in January 2019. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Attacks most commonly occur when an animal feels threatened. The most common human victim of attack is an adult male in his 50s walking alone, while the most common animal attackers are large—attacking pigs with recorded weights averaged more than 280 pounds; the largest was more than 1100 pounds—solitary male boars, who are particularly dangerous when already wounded.

"Don't put yourself in a situation where you're threatening them in any way, or blocking an escape path," Mayer said.

Mayer found that a typical wild pig attack takes place during the daytime, especially in the morning and late afternoon, with attacks peaking in the months of January, October, April and November.

Since wild boars primarily attack when they feel cornered and threatened, the best prevention is making plenty of noise when in areas with a high concentration of wild pigs—making it obvious to the animal where you are at all times.

Perhaps counterintuitively, having a dog companion can actually increase your risk of being attacked, by making it more likely that the boar will feel threatened and respond aggressively.

"If you've got a lot of wild pigs in the area, you don't want to be walking a dog when you might encounter one," Mayer said. "Walking a dog, either on or off leash, is a risky behavior. Pigs, for whatever reason, perceive dogs to be predators."

The typical wild pig attack lasts for only a few seconds, with a boar often charging and delivering a serious injury to a person's legs or feet before running away. In his 2013 paper, Mayer recommends detouring around wild hogs, or slowly backing away without making sudden movements that might be interprted as threatening. But Mayer wouldn't recommend playing dead.

"Typically with wild pig attacks, those who remain standing and erect have the least injuries," Mayer told Newsweek. "Getting knocked to the ground can be fatal."

The most common way to die of a wild boar attack is blood loss. Wounds sustained from a wild pig attack can be blunt force trauma from the charging animal, but are more often multiple "penetrating wounds" left by teeth, which can cause ragged lacerations. In one attack, a wound to a victim's calf required more than 100 stitches to seal. Infections are also a common consequence of wild boar attacks, with Mayer documenting Streptococcus infections from boar tusks and antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus left behind after bites.

In his 2013 paper, Mayer emphasized that "wild pigs normally show little to no aggression toward man, and typically try to flee when they encounter humans," with most close encounters ending without incident. In most cases, a wild pig has to be somehow provoked into attacking.

But if a wild pig does decide to charge you, Mayer recommends fighting back instead of running ("I would try and make it as uncomfortable for the pig as you can," he said), since a wild boar can easily outpace a human over short distances. But an even better option is finding the nearest high ground, since wild pigs can't climb. Putting a tree between you and a wild boar, then climbing, can be an effective tactic (six feet off the ground should be enough), with rocks, dumpsters and car hoods also good avenues of retreat.

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As wild boar populations increase, they appear more and more often in suburban and urban spaces, such as these wild pigs in Haifa, Israel. Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images

While people are attacked by wild pigs every year in the United States, fatal encounters are very rare, with only five fatal boar attacks recorded domestically. The most recent was in Texas in 2019, when Christine Rollins, 59, was attacked and killed east of Houston, Texas by multiple feral pigs (while more than 80 percent of recorded attacks are by solitary hogs, full sounders of up to 20 animals are sometimes involved in attacks). Of the estimated two to six million wild hogs in the United States, more than half are in Texas, where the invasive species cause an estimated $400 million in damage annually.

While attacks by wild pigs have been recorded for 50,000 years—in cave paintings, ancient Greek and even on headstones in 12th century English graveyards—the rapid expansion in wild pig populations, including in the United States, has made dangerous encounters more likely in recent decades.

Mayer is currently working on a follow-up to his 2013 survey of wild pig attacks, tracking encounters from 2000 to 2019. He has so far documented, worldwide, 24 fatal attacks last year alone.