2020VISION Assignment: Wild boar in the Forest of Dean

The wild boar is a controversial mammal and a recent reintroduction to our forests. Here wildlife photographer Andy Rouse gets down and dirty with them in the Forest of Dean.

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Wild boar in the Forest of Dean, by wildlife photographer Andy Rouse.

The wild boar is a controversial mammal and a recent reintroduction to our forests. Wildlife photographer Andy Rouse gets down and dirty with them in the Forest of Dean. 

iWitness Assignment: Wild boar, in partnership with boar oracle, naturalist and keen photographer Robyn Ward.
Location: Forest of Dean
Photographer: Andy Rouse
 
 
Wild boar are cool. I am firmly in their fan club. But my first few stalking forays into the forest were fruitless.
 
I spent hours following boar tracks through dense forest, inspecting their droppings, sitting in dark shadows, anything to catch a fleeting glimpse of a hairy backside. Nothing.
 
I continued to go out, wearing old clothes that had never been washed and not washing myself for a day before each trip into the forest.
 
Of course it gave my friends much ammunition for mickey-taking but I was determined to succeed so laughed it all off; scent was my worst enemy.
 
Then one afternoon, my luck changed. After a tip off from Robyn, I hiked to a remote area of the forest and crept silently to the edge of a clearing. I heard the boar before I saw them.
 
 
A smile crept across my face as I realised that the excited little squeals came from piglets. I had struck the jackpot! Okay, I'm a softie and I admit it.
 
 
My first concern was the wind direction. Luckily, I felt it in my face so my lovely ageing wildlife photographer scent would not reach the sensitive, twitching nose of the mother.
 
I crawled slowly forward, pressing my whole body into the ground to minimise my human shape. It was painstaking and exhausting work, after 30 careful minutes I was close enough to see the piglets clearly. Fortunately they had not seen me.
 
 
I took our first pictures for the project. All was going well and I risked a smile... A snort told me someone else wasn’t smiling - the female emerged from the forest and I pressed myself even flatter.
 
She walked around me, trying to work out what I was and I knew it was a matter of time before my scent would give me away.
 
 
It did. With a snort she was off into the forest, her piglets following closely behind. I was knackered, physically and mentally, and covered from head to toe in mud (and worse).
 
On the hike back I noticed that my smell was far worse than it had ever been but nothing could remove the smile on my face that day.
 
 
Top photography tip:
 
  • When you are stalking wildlife you need to travel light, as you will often have to stay quiet and flat to the ground for long periods of time.
     
  • Having a rucksack on your back will cause you to get snagged up and will spoil your profile too, which may be enough to alert watching eyes.
     
  • So keep it simple and take a zoom lens that will allow you to be flexible. You never know, if your fieldcraft is good then your subject may approach you! 

 

2020VISION is a multimedia project that highlights the link between people's well being and the restoration of natural systems.

Uniquely, it pairs the talents of 20 of the UK's most skilled outdoor photographers with writers, editors, videographers, sound artists and scientists to make a compelling case for rewilding landscapes - for wildlife and for people.

To see some of the best images taken on 2020VISION assignments so far, click here.

To find out more about 2020VISION, click here.

 

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