"If she comes back again, I'll teach her a lesson!"
The sprightly old lady waves her walking stick at the vanishing forester's car. "She" is Snow White, a mother wild boar and her seven humbug-like piglets, christened by the residents along Argeninische Allee in southwest Berlin. Snow White chose to give birth in the front yard of an apartment building, just like a few dozen other suburban boar do each spring. Andreas Constien, the forester, was just checking by - a daily routine when wild boars are in town. He knows only too well that reminding his fellow Berliners not to go too close, or to feed the animals, won't stop them from doing just that. He also discourages waving sticks at them.
"We have boar-lovers and boar-haters, plus many people who are simply afraid," says Andreas, a veteran of Berlin’s often tense relationship with wild boar. He has many stories to tell about the city's wildest residents: how one crashed through the glass frontage of the Axel Springer Publishing House; how groups of boar dug up the pitch at Berlin's premier league football club - multiple times.
"Yes, wild boar are in the news, almost every day, every spring", says Marc Franusch, Press Officer with the Berlin Forestry Department. Marc has been at the frontline of human-wildlife encounters for more than 20 years. "The boar are not the problem," he says, "people are the problem when they get too close, let their dogs off the lead or worse, start feeding them."
After a month of mostly peaceful co-existence, Snow White and her offspring finally wander off into the nearby Grunewald forest. While some residents breathe a sigh of relief and eagerly reclaim their flowerbeds, others put out fresh food and water - just in case the boar decide to return.
The challenge of living alongside large wild animals isn’t unique to Berlin. As the global human population continues to soar, and the planet’s wild places are increasingly squeezed, people and wildlife are being forced together like never before. Coexisting with animals that can impact on our orderly lives requires a reimagining of our whole relationship with nature. If we don’t learn tolerance and respect, we’ll not only be deprived of a thrilling photo opportunity, but we’ll put at risk the very natural web of life upon which we all depend.