Rome — It was 11 pm in Rome and 44-year old psychotherapist Marta Santangelo was walking down her street, a bag full of trash in one hand, her dog’s leash in the other. As she approached the trash cans on the darkened road, she realized she was in danger.
She quickly scooped her dog into her arms and took off running, but it was too late. Her attacker leapt from behind, and Santangelo fell to the floor, the latest victim in a series of attacks on the citizens of north Rome.
The aggressors: Wild boar.
In Santangelo’s case, it was a large sow with a litter of seven piglets in toe. Although the wild hogs don’t normally attack people, they can pose a danger to humans and pets if they sense danger to their young or their food sources.
“The animal was on top of my head,” Santangelo told Italian daily La Repubblica. “If my dog had not defended me, I don’t know what would have happened.”
Santangelo was lucky. A motorist who witnessed the attack drove her to a hospital, where she was treated for minor injuries. But Romans have been rattled by the increasingly common, and increasingly brazen encounters with the animals, and angry at the local government for not stemming the boar incursions.
The Italian capital is home to an estimated 5,000-6,000 wild boar. They live in the city’s parks but venture into populated areas at all hours of the day and night. They often move in large groups searching for food, entering school and hospital grounds, perusing outdoor restaurants and nonchalantly crossing busy streets and highways.
“This time the victim was an adult — but what if it happens to a child?” local activist Franco Quaranta told La Repubblica. “With their teeth, even just a bite to the leg is enough to jeopardize someone’s life.”
Wild boar can weigh up to 220 pounds and grow to 5-feet in length.
Some citizens of north Rome say the local government is failing to protect people, and they’ve taken matters into their own hands. Several neighborhoods have urged residents not to venture out at night, when the streets are emptier and help is harder to come by.
“It’s a reaction of self-protection,” Quaranta told the newspaper.
Authorities have decided to install fences along strategic points in a bid to keep the boars inside parks, and also to fence-in some of the city’s public trash cans to discourage the scavengers.
The matter has been a political hot potato for years, with the city and regional governments accusing each other of inaction.
“The people of Rome are being held hostage by wild boar,” said David Granieri, head of the Lazio region’s agricultural association. The Lazio region surrounds the city of Rome. It has allowed the culling of wild boar by hunters since 2019, and Granieri is pushing for the same to be permitted in the capital city.
“The situation, which we have been denouncing for years, is now out of control. This is not acceptable in a capital city,” Granieri was quoted as saying by the Ansa news agency.