Background: Wild boars (Sus scrofa L.) are globally widely distributed, and their populations have increased in Europe during recent decades. Encounters between humans and wild boars are rare because of the predominantly nocturnal lifestyle of the latter, and wild boar management by hunting is a challenging task. Animal activity patterns are important for understanding the behaviour of a species. However, knowledge of detailed temporal patterns and an understanding of the drivers of wild boar activity at a fine temporal scale are lacking. Of special relevance for human-wild boar interactions (e.g., encounters, conflicts, and management) is the question of whether nocturnal activity depends on anthropogenic factors and, particularly, how local hunting regimes may affect activity patterns. We used GPS telemetry and acceleration measurements to shed light on this part of wild boar behaviour, observing 34 animals in Central Europe. Animals were tracked along a gradient of hunting pressure from hunting-free areas to areas with low or high hunting pressure. Fitted generalised additive models allowed predicting the probability of active behaviour under differing disturbance regimes precisely to day of year and time of day.
Results: The wild boars were predominantly nocturnal, with peak activity at approximately midnight. However, the data showed increased activity during daylight for wild boars that used no-hunting zones or reduced-hunting zones. Large areas with low disturbance levels promoted activity during daylight more than smaller areas with an intermediate disturbance regime. High air temperatures and locations within forests reduced the probability of active behaviour, whereas proximity to tracks used for forestry or agriculture was accompanied by a higher probability of activity.
Conclusions: We conclude that wild boars flexibly adjust their activity to their local environmental conditions, considering disturbances at the scale of long-term home ranges as well as actual small-scale landscape quality. Entire wild boar home ranges should be covered in the delineation of reserves intending to stimulate activity during daylight.
Keywords: Behavioural flexibility; Circadian activity pattern; Disturbance; Diurnal; Hunting; Light–dark circle; Nocturnal; Wild boar.