Photo Credit: Haifa Municipality’s Facebook
A wild boar on Haifa city street, July 10, 2023.

Einat Kalisch-Rotem, an urban planner who is serving as Mayor of Haifa since 2018, is up for reelection on October 31 this year, and although she defeated former Mayor Yona Yahav with 56% of the vote last time around, this time she is up against a formidable foe: pigs.


The wild boar nuisance has become the main issue that preoccupies the candidates and voters in Haifa. Promises to treat the pigs’ problem are made by all the campaigns, but the residents of the northern city are still afraid to walk the streets and have despaired of reaching a solution. Wild boars roam the urban space in Haifa, as well as other communities in the Carmel area: Nesher, Tirat HaCarmel, Ussefiya, Daliyat al-Karmel, and the Carmel coast towns.

In recent years, the wild boar has become an explosive species spreading intensively outside its natural range due to human activity. The wild boar population is growing at a high rate, and as a result, encounters between humans and wild boars have been recorded within the urban area. Until 2006, there was a harmonious balance between the residents of the neighborhoods in Haifa and the wild boars and a head-on encounter with a wild boar was considered a rare event. In 2006, the entry of pigs into the urban space started to be observed. Little by little, damage appeared and there were reports of attacks on residents and pets by the pigs.

In 2018, the Haifa municipality estimated the number of wild boars in the city in the hundreds, but according to Dr. Yair Weiss, the municipal veterinarian, this estimate was way smaller than the real figure. The new mayor invested about NIS 600,000 ($165,000) in attempts to reduce the number of pigs invading the neighborhoods. In 2019, the municipality moved to act with humane measures, both because the thinning operations did not achieve the desired results, and for the ideological reasons of the new mayor. In January 2020, the Haifa Municipality placed new signs in the Carmel neighborhoods warning of the active presence of wild animals in the urban environment. The signs stand out in yellow with an illustration of a wild boar and the inscription “Haifa wild boar in the vicinity.” The municipality also started fencing the boars, placing feeding stations for cats only, and fixing trash cans, to make it more difficult for the pigs to roam about.

Avinoam Luria, one of the top zoologists in Israel, and the director of the wildlife division at the Nature Reserves Authority, has been studying the wildlife in Haifa for decades, says he suggested a well-known substance that can be fed to the boars to chemically castrate them without causing any other bodily harm. He says this could solve the problem in one generation – but the new mayor would not listen.

Luria believes part of the problem is Haifa’s less than adequate sanitation services, which cause heaping garbage cans to remain on the sidewalks, attracting the pigs. He says he was also met with resistance from humane groups that are critical of any attempt to bring down the pig population.

Luria warns that the boars are excellent transmitters of disease, and the most vulnerable species are the sheep, which are raised on the Carmel Mountain ridge.

Earlier in July, the Haifa municipality announced a new experimental program whereby the pigs will be picked up and transported to the Horshan Mountain Reserve, National Park in Zikhron Ya’akov south of Haifa. To start, two pigs who have lost their fear of humans will be tagged, transported, and followed for six months.

The city also plans to increase garbage pickups, replace decorative vegetation with the kind pigs hate (do pigs really hate anything?), and trim trees that bear fruits pigs like.

Finally, Mayor Kalisch-Rotem will appoint a Pig Czar, who will operate in collaboration with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

Those are long-term, and very careful solutions – which may not be enough to save the mayor’s hide come October 31. Now, you tell me, who runs an election on Halloween? Have they considered the ramifications? And is it OK with the pigs?

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