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Sierra Daily

Dec 22, 2010

Boss Hogs

The next time you follow a trail of bread crumbs in the Black Forest, you might want to keep an eye out for rampaging hordes of nuclear-powered boars.  

Weighing up to 400 pounds, with sharp eight-inch tusks, wild Bavarian boars are capable of charging at speeds of 30 miles per hour. And as if that's not enough to make you soil your lederhosen, some of them are also radioactive, the result of fallout from the explosion and fire at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986. It seems that the beasts are fond of forest mushrooms, truffles, and wild berries—three foods with especially concentrated levels of cesium 137. To the frustration of boar hunters looking forward to a pig roast, some Bavarian boars have cesium levels of 7,000 becquerels per kilogram—more than 10 times what's safe for their bratwurst. Last year, 650,000 wild boars were shot in Germany, but up to 4,000 of them were too radioactive to eat.

The German government compensates hunters who shoot radioactive boars, and the price tag keeps climbing. That's because unusually warm weather in Europe has allowed the porkers to feed and breed with abandon. In the past three years, the German boar population has increased sixfold, to 2.5 million. They've become a marauding menace, bursting into churches, shops, and cinemas; attacking pedestrians and cyclists; blocking highways; and even digging up corpses.

--Dashka Slater

(Editor's Note: While Dashka's "Woe Is Us" column for Sierra was at the printer, National Public Radio's Morning Edition brought news of a 300-pound rampaging in a German meat market, here.)

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