Dressed in camouflage clothing, equipped with bows and arrows, they spend their nights up in the trees waiting for ‘the invaders’
Since 2011 they work, free of charge; with the Community of Madrid for the control of mountain goats and wild boars
Paco has never held a rifle. At dusk he reaches his tree and before going up he puts on his black and white camouflage suit over his thermal clothing. Up there, camouflaged with the branches, the cold cuts the skin. Using harnesses, he climbs four meters to the middle of the oak, resting his feet on wooden blocks that he has previously installed. Seeing this local administration official climb with such agility, no one would say that he is 51 years old. When he’s up there, sitting on a wooden board, he pulls up the bow by pulling a string. Paco is ready and on the alert. You just need to spot the target. To the animal.
He is one of the 55 veteran archers commissioned by the Community of Madrid to clean the excess of wild boar in the region . All of them form the Service of Controllers with Bow of Wild Species ( SCAES ). There are engineers, businessmen, writers, veterinarians … who climb the trees of municipalities and pastures every night to solve one of the problems that increasingly worries environmental institutions. No one charges a penny to kill wild pigs. The absolute effectiveness is your cover letter. They have shot 263 arrows and killed 202 wild boars, 58 mountain goats and three deer . Full. And it is the first time that they face the camera of a media outlet.
“Many nights,” says Paco, “we spend four hours upstairs waiting without seeing any animals. And when it does happen, we shoot the arrow about 14 meters away, only if we have them within safe range. If not, our job is to scare them .” When they hunt the wild boar, they load it into the car and take it to the Center for the Recovery of Wild Species (CRAS). There, after taking the samples and corresponding data, the animals are incinerated at the facilities.
The scene, like that of a Robin Hood from a movie, has given for more than a scare. “There are times when someone runs or takes a walk and does not even realize that we are here. Those who see us are scared at first and shout. But we go downstairs, we explain what we are doing and they understand quickly” says the archer-official.
The 55 ask that when we write about what they do, we substitute the word hunting for control. “Our collaboration with the Ministry of the Environment and with the affected municipalities focuses on becoming a tool for controlling species, whether for safety or health reasons, never extermination. We only act if they require us, always altruistically, we don’t earn any moneyand it is not something that amuses us either, we do it because it is environmentally and socially necessary, “says veteran hunter and documentarian Javier Sintes, director of instruction at SCAES, an organization integrated into the Madrid Hunting Federation. According to his data, there are 35,000 pigs wild animals scattered throughout the community, and now, as their density increases, many of these omnivores leave their forests looking for food in the gardens of man.
At the headquarters of the Federation are the president of the hunting archers collective, Alberto López and Emilio de la Cruz, technical director. Together with Javier, the three are pioneers of archery hunting in Spain and the ideologues of this project that was born in December 2011 . “Faced with this problem, we made a report to the Ministry offering our experience because we knew it could give good results. The bow is a much safer tool than the rifle in urban areas, ” says Emilio.
Goal: 2,500 goats
In 2013, they also collaborated with the Community of Madrid to regulate the excess population of the mountain goat in the Guadarrama National Park. The more than 4,500 goats that exist are causing damage to the vegetation and there is a danger of contagion of diseases caused by a parasite such as scabies. The order was to sacrifice 2,500 in five years. With their bows and arrows, they managed to kill 52 in 22 days. Faced with the environmental pressure, the regional government decided to continue with the project with hunters with firearms. But, in August, the Animalista Party Against Animal Abuse (PACMA) denounced the council at the Environmental Prosecutor’s Office, accusing them that their control plan had not complied with the transparency requirements. Last October,A Madrid court decreed the precautionary suspension of the Mountain Goat Deaths Management Plan, agreeing with the animalists.
When asking PACMA for their opinion on the current wild boar hunt, they were unaware that these bow checks were taking place. “By hunting these animals in an inhabited area you put the people who live there at risk . We must look for non-lethal alternatives for the animals such as traps to capture them and transfer them to another area where they do not cause problems,” says spokeswoman Laura Duarte .
“We are always with the sword of Damocles on us. We are not hunting, we do a necessary control of species at the request of the affected municipalities. The bow is the tool that does not make noise, does not disturb animals or people and is very economical “, defend Javier, Emilio and Alberto.
To form their group of collaborators, who now only have two women, they carried out a strict admission process. “We are not worth anyone who knows how to handle the bow and has a license. This is not sport hunting. We act according to the social, environmental or economic problem that exists. Our first objective is to intimidate the animal and if it is within the shot to shoot it down“, Alberto points out. For the applicants, the first thing that is asked is to prove their experience with the bow. They have to present the license of the Madrid Hunting Federation, Civil Liability insurance and their last three hunting permits that do not exceed four years old. Upon passing the first control, they perform hunting archery tests at night with three-dimensional targets in the shape of animals. Those who pass this filter are taught to climb trees properly secured with their harnesses. “Then We, the most veteran, give them training courses in first aid and modify their rules of behavior in the field. This is a necessary control of species, there are a series of rules of respect for the environment that must be met, like never abandoning the dead animal “, Javier says.
Paco, a civil servant, has been hunting with a bow for 21 years SERGIO ENRÍQUEZ-NISTAL
Many of the residents of San Sebastián de los Reyes find it funny when they see a herd of 20 wild boars circling in front of the school and the police station . The visits of the Suidos to this Madrid municipality are almost daily. We see it in the videos that Javier has on his mobile. Yes, the image is funny. Not so much the consequences. “We have invaded their habitat, they have no predators and, above all, people feed them and that is why they have lost their fear of human beings. That is dangerous because there is no sanitary control and then there are attacks and accidents.”
The hunter refers to the fact that these animals weighing more than 80 kilos have attacked several cyclists and dogs who were walking with their owners. They also suddenly burst onto roads or paths. And misfortunes happen like the accident that a pregnant woman had when trying to avoid one of these wild boars when she crossed her car. He lost the baby.
When there are these accidents and sightings of wild boars in urban areas are constant, the municipalities ask for help from the Ministry of the Environment, which activates its protocol of action by calling the hunting archers. They make a preliminary study of the conditions of the place and a feasibility report that they send back to the institution for final approval. An example of the request: “As a result of the sightings of wild boars, the destruction in the garden areas, the danger to traffic and neighbors, we authorize the Madrid Hunting Federation to wait for wild boars with bows from Monday to Thursday in the Valdelatas pasture “.
They arrive at this pine forest in Alcobendas at 6.30 pm. The thermometer keeps going down in an area with 300 hectares and 308 suids . The archers have already killed 40. On the map they carry, they have divided the area into 10 posts with artificial feedlot where a dozen hunters with bows will “wait” for the wild boars up in the trees.
Paco, the archer-official, recreates the situation for us up on an elm tree at the Once Olivos school farm where they have a shooting range and practice for the exits. The enclosure, with 300 species of animals that the children’s schools go to visit, is owned by Loic, another of the 55 bow hunters.
This 56-year-old veterinarian has a company that organizes hunting campaigns for foreigners in Spain and in Tanzania. Shooting arrows at the target in the shape of a deer, is another member of the group, Néstor, an Argentine who works in an accounting firm and who competes in sport hunting.
All hunters share the argument that the animal does not suffer physically or emotionally when hit by the arrow .
“He does not conceive that he has been attacked. For a few seconds, before falling unconscious to the ground, he turns disoriented without being in tension. This is also corroborated by the macroscopic analyzes of the Ministry, showing that his adrenaline levels and cortisol are not altered “.
The animalists do not think the same, who claim that the animal suffers by bleeding to death when the arrow is nailed to it. And they consider reporting to the Ministry again for this practice.
“There are urban centers with interaction of wild fauna, especially wild boar. It is the species of game that generates the greatest damage both in crops and in traffic accidents caused by its irruption on the roads. Given the specific dimensions of the problem, it is rejected in firearms in these areas due to their potential danger, thus arising the option of capture by hunting with a bow “, defend in writing the General Directorate of the Environment.
The struggle between the institutions will continue. Meanwhile, more and more autonomous communities call the 55 archers to shoot them an arrow.
In Galicia, the Xunta has authorized three local archers to make two strikes to hunt down the wild boars that walk in a row each week through the municipality of Cambre.
The rebound in sightings of these animals in urban centers does not stop growing. The wild boars have left the mountains to go down to 80 Spanish municipalities.
“We are at the point where the behavior of these species is altering and exploding exponentially throughout the country, and they are going to need us.”