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German Wildlife Officials Caution People To Be Wary Of Wild Boars

NOEL KING, HOST:

In Germany, it's been the summer of the wild boar. Boars are native to Germany. And videos of their antics keep showing up on social media, which is funny, but it's not entirely funny. Here's NPR's Rob Schmitz.

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: At first glance, swimmers along Germany's Baltic coast thought the creature swimming towards them was a dog. A sailor had seen the animal, too, miles away from shore in the open sea, and thought it was a porpoise. But they were all wrong. It was a wild boar.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHMITZ: The boar had been swimming for miles. From where, nobody knew. But from the video, the animal didn't seem tired from the journey. After paddling ashore at Schoenhagen Beach, it tried to bite a man defending himself with a shovel before scurrying away.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking German).

SCHMITZ: The Central European boar has coarse hair, tiny eyes and very sharp teeth connected to powerful jaws. The animal is native to Germany. And when confronted by humans, it is known to injure and occasionally kill. This reputation seemed to be forgotten in early August when a female boar was photographed alongside her two piglets stealing a man's laptop bag at Teufel Lake in Berlin, prompting the man to run after them. The scene was made more comical by the man's clothes. He wasn't wearing any. The lake is popular with nude sunbathers. The photos went viral. And animal rights activist Sonja Wende was one of millions who clicked on them.

SONJA WENDE: It was such a funny situation, where you have, like, this cheeky, little boar that is grabbing this laptop and running around the beach. And this naked man is chasing after her and trying his best to get his laptop back. And he did eventually. So there was, like, no damage for anyone except everybody was just having a blast and it was so much fun.

SCHMITZ: The following week, tourists flocked to Teufel Lake in search of the mommy boar, who they named Elsa, and her cute piglets. Berlin forestry officials were not amused.

MARC FRANUSCH: Many of them take some food. And they think it's a sign of having a heart for wild boars if we bring them some food. But it's quite the opposite.

SCHMITZ: Berlin Forestry Commission's Marc Franusch says all this love for Elsa may end in tragedy. A colleague of his at the Forestry Commission told German media they may have to kill Elsa and her piglets if they continue to rely on humans for food, a situation that could lead them to start attacking people. Franusch says the commission isn't planning to kill Elsa and her piglets, but he worries about what's going to happen in the autumn when fewer people visit the lake and when she and especially her piglets have to find their own food.

FRANUSCH: They are used to finding food in the surrounding of people. They aren't able to find the necessary food in the forest area by themselves. They never learned this.

SCHMITZ: The activist Sonja Wende, who's led a protest in front of the Forestry Commission to save Elsa, says killing her and her piglets is unacceptable.

WENDE: I think the answer to this problem is to exist peacefully together.

SCHMITZ: And in order to do that, Wende says people should stop feeding them and maintain their distance. But it might be too late.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHMITZ: A video posted to Twitter last week shows what appear to be Elsa and her two piglets ransacking a children's birthday party near Teufel Lake. Freelance journalist Charlie Hawley shot the video, which shows children jumping into trees as Elsa and her piglets eat everything in sight.

CHARLIE HAWLEY: I think she first grabbed a piece of birthday cake. And then she started going after the party favor bags full of candy belonging to the children. Some of the kids were yelling and enjoying it. Most of the kids, though, started crying when their party favor bag full of sweets was eaten one after the other.

SCHMITZ: Hawley says the boars scurried off before returning again and again to eat as much cake and candy as they could. And at the end of the day, with their bellies full of sugary people food, Elsa the boar and her piglets slept somewhere in the forest, maybe near the lake. And they waited for the humans with their food, their garbage, their clothing-optional beaches and their birthday parties to return. Rob Schmitz, NPR News, Berlin.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOXHOLE'S "AT RIGHT ANGLES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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