Contaminated Truffles Irradiating Wild Boars

wild boar closeup photo

Image credit: Subharnab/Flickr

When Chernobyl's reactor number four ignited in 1986, it sent a plume of radioactive fallout into the air that eventually spread across Europe. One place it settled was Germany. Now, nearly a quarter century later, that fallout is reappearing in wild boars with alarming frequency.The source of the problem lies just beneath the soil. Radioactive cesium-137 is still settling in Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg, where boars are most common. The radioactive element, according to experts, has reached the perfect level to contaminate truffles and other mushrooms—the boars' favorite foods.

To make matters worse, the boar population in southern Germany is exploding. Climate change has brought warmer weather to the region, which has increased the amount of beech and oak seeds—and crops like corn and rape—for the boars to feast on.

The population, some experts say, has quadrupled or quintupled in only a few years. And as the population has increased, the number of contaminated boars has also increased.

In 2009, 640,000 wild boars were killed by hunters in Germany. Of that number, 2,000 to 4,000 were found to be too radioactive for human consumption. A decade ago, the number of contaminated boars ranged only between 125 to 250 per year.

To confront the problem, Germany has established testing stations, manned by hunters, across the country. Hunters are paid for contaminated boars—which must we burned—as an incentive to encourage participation.

Even so, the increasing number of contaminated boars—and ballooning cost of disposing of them—is just part of the legacy of one of the worst man-made disasters of all time.

Read more about Chernobyl:
Chernobyl: Wildlife Haven or a Dangerous Wasteland?
Real World Half-Life: Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster Still Harming Animals
8 Worst Man-made Environmental Disasters of All Time

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