Monday, December 31, 2012

Wild boar shot at Gamone

Suddenly, yesterday afternoon, I heard hounds barking furiously up beyond my neighbor's house, probably in the muddy bed of Gamone Creek. The frenetic tone of the yelping suggested that the dogs had cornered a wild boar, and that a mortal combat was taking place. Curiously, there were no hunters in sight. For a moment, I thought about wandering up the slopes to see what was happening. I realized immediately that this might be an unwise excursion, because I did not relish the idea that Fitzroy and I might suddenly find ourselves face-to-face with a wild beast, and maybe even in the midst of gunfire. Fortunately, a white utility vehicle soon appeared in the vicinity of the barking, and a couple of armed hunters emerged. A minute later, a single shot rang out across the valley... and the barking stopped. I decided to take a look at the scene. At the level of Jackie's place, I met up with a team of three hunters, one of whom was dragging a dead beast up out of the creek. They informed me immediately (without my asking) that they were not from Choranche, but from the neighboring commune of St-André-en-Royans, on the other side of the northern ridge above Gamone. Their hounds had strayed, as it were, from St-André down into Choranche, where they had come upon this solitary boar. Consequently, the hunters were obliged to kill the beast in order to save their dogs. Overhearing their phone conversations with fellow hunters, I soon gathered that these fellows from St-André didn't really know exactly where they were located. Besides, they seemed to fear that they might run into problems with the Choranche hunters.

I had refrained from bringing along my Nikon, because hunters are not necessarily the kind of folk who like to be photographed. I soon realized that this had been a wise choice, because these particular hunters seemed to be a little disturbed by their chance encounter with a wild boar at this unexpected spot. So, I'm illustrating this blog post with a beautiful photo of a live wild boar, in a typical muddy creek setting, that I found on the web.

                                                                                — Richard Bartz

By the time the slain boar of Gamone had been dragged up onto the road, dozens of other hunters had arrived on the scene, in a convoy of vehicles. The fur of the black beast, which seemed to be sleeping, was spotless. But I was stunned and distraught by the appearance of the pack of four hounds that had participated in the final combat. They were covered in layers of pink blood. And I soon learned that it was blood from the dogs themselves, two of whom had been severely wounded in the encounter with the wild boar. But the hounds gave no signs of suffering. They appeared to be contented, in their ancestral element of wolves pitted against a ferocious prey. For the dogs, a little blood and patches of skin torn apart by the tusks of a wild boar were neither here nor there. My homely Fitzroy (accustomed to watching TV, spread out in my lap in front of the fireplace) was surely impressed by these bloody canine gladiators, chained up at the rear of their master's vehicle. Urban observers (and I count myself in their numbers, even though I inhabit the savage slopes of an Alpine environment) have lost contact with those archaic ages of bloody conflicts, perpetuated these days by the hunters and their hounds.

When I first settled down in Gamone, 20 years ago, I looked upon hunters, naively and stupidly, as uncouth and troublesome neighbors. I have understood, since then, that these men remain the surviving priesthood of obscure archaic forces that we must respect perpetually and maybe seek to control... but never condemn nor abandon.

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