Israel's wild animals moving into the cities

Wild boar Photo: Gil Caspi

Haifa Veterinary Services: People are feeding wolves, jackals and wild boar and the animals are getting used to it.

There are wild boar in Haifa, Nesher, and Kiryat Shmona; jackals in Beit She'an and the northern neighborhoods of Ramat Gan; and wolves in Arad, Sde Boker, and Ein Gedi. Wild animals have been appearing in urban areas in recent years, arousing mixed feelings among residents: astonishment and joy, but also fear and panic. Ecologists claim that the cities are dirty and that we are fully responsible for the wild animals' appearance, and warn against complacency.

Sarit Oked lives in the Neurim neighborhood in Arad overlooking the Nahal Tavya creek (Wadi Jura), which flows in the direction of the Dead Sea. She says, "I saw the wolf myself in my garden 10 meters away from me. Up until last month, I walked in the creek every morning, but now I have stopped doing it. Of course I'm scared. It’s a wolf pack, and I don't want to run into them. The animals come because they have no choice. Their natural habitat is being destroyed by people, and they're looking for food and water."

Gil Caspi, a member of Kibbutz Ein Gedi, is a gardener and amateur photographer. He says he loves wolves and is enthusiastic about them. "We've been seeing them for about six months. In the area in front of the kibbutz dining room, I saw a white wolf one day moving around among the children. It's been a plague since then, as is now happening in Arad. They were going crazy looking for food and chasing after cats. This is something we're not used to. You can see that small children are no longer walking around after seven in the evening. There's some fear," he says.

Haim Berger, a guide from Midreshet Ben Gurion at Sde Boker, says that he has been following predators as a matter of routine on the night trips he conducts. "When I see animals on my trips, that's fine, but when an animal deliberately goes into a community, it's not good. We've had cases of cats and dogs being eaten. For me, not keeping wild animals away is negligence. The danger is when they come near people. In the first moment, the animal realizes that we're a source of food, and in the second moment, it loses its fear and realizes that we're not dangerous. It's liable to lead to attacks against people."

Haifa Veterinary Services deputy manager Yair Weiss explains that the wild boar, like the jackal and the crow, is a species multiplying all over Israel. "The wild boar is a very smart animal. Our dog is much more stupid. The boar takes advantage of every opportunity. In rural communities, boars are frightening people. They are hunted there, and are recognized as a predator. A source of food has emerged in the cities, and there is no fear factor. There's nothing reducing their numbers. They have no natural enemies."

"Globes": Why are there all of sudden boars within the cities?

Weiss: "Because there's a custom of feeding animals, such as cats, for example. This doesn't exist elsewhere in the world. This custom probably came from Eastern European countries. It's high-energy and protein-rich food. There are people in Haifa deliberately feeding boars, even hand-to-mouth."

Are boars dangerous, or is it irrational fear?

"I don't like these questions, because it's very complicated. There are thousands of shekels in damage to yards, including damage to building foundations, because boars regularly rub up against them. Is the fear logical? In Ramat Remez, a boar knocked over a gas canister and caused a leak, and it became necessary to evacuate the building. They attack dogs and eat cats. We also have cases of attacks on people here and there. We had three cases in Haifa in 10 years. It's not their place, and it's not what we want when we live in the city."

"The problem is not a lack of space in nature"

Israel Nature and Parks Authority ecologist Dr. Amit Dolev explains that the animals are responding to what is happening in the area. "This is an extremely extensive phenomenon. It's happening in communities adjacent to open areas. The animals respond to food, and there's also a matter of habituation. As soon as the animals learn that there is no fear or risk, they repeat it again and again."

Is it happening because Israel is getting more crowded?

Dolev: "Ostensibly yes, but not on this scale. The problem is not necessarily a lack of space in nature. What affects them is the availability of food. The more food there is, the more they multiply."

What can be done?

"In planning, if we create a garbage collection system that is inaccessible to animals, we will cut down the focuses of attraction. From a human standpoint, there's a problem, because many people think that when they give food to animals, they're doing the most important thing in the world. What it actually does is get the animals used to being fed, and creates a serious problem. Wolves at the Dead Sea come because of the food that people leave. In Haifa, there are people who deliberately leave food for boars. A great deal of educational activity has to be done. Leaving food outside the house shouldn't be allowed.

"The Nature and Parks Authority is taking action on several levels under the Wild Animals Protection Law. If we see an overpopulation of jackals or boars, we look for the reasons and try to reduce it. If the animal population is too large, they harm not only people, but also agriculture, and can harm other animals."

Do you kill animals?

"We try to use other ways. There are cases in which it is necessary to cull the population. The aim is to find other tools: to reduce food, protect agricultural areas, and reduce animals' reliance on them, and quite a bit of explanation and education."

Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on November 21, 2017

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2017

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Wild boar Photo: Gil Caspi
Wild boar Photo: Gil Caspi
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