Fears are growing in Sweden over packs of radioactive wild boar moving north across the country. One animal shot by hunters was found to have more than 10 times the safe level of radiation.
The high radiation levels — which come 31 years after the Chernobyl disaster sent a cloud of radioactive dust over Sweden — have left hunters afraid to kill and eat the animals.
Ulf Frykman, who works for the environmental consultancy Calluna, this week issued an alert to local hunters in the country of Gävle, about 100 miles north of Stockholm, warning them of “extremely high” radiation levels among local boar.
“This is the highest level we’ve ever measured,” he told the Telegraph, after testing an animal in Tärnsjö, a village between the cities of Uppsala and Gävle, with a radiation level of 16,000 becquerel per kilogram (Bq/kg).
Of the 30 samples of boar his team have tested this year, only six have been below the safe limit of 1,500 Bq/kg.
As the soil in some areas north of Tärnsjö are more than twice as contaminated, radiation levels among boar are only expected to rise.
Wild boars’ feeding habits mean they have a greater exposure to the iodine and caesium-137 left by the 1986 disaster than other game animals.
“Wild boar root around in the earth searching for food, and all the caesium stays in the ground,” Mr Frykman explained. “If you look at deer and elk, they eat up in the bushes and you do not have not so much caesium there.”
The accident at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in Ukraine released roughly four hundred times more radioactive material than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Areas in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine were the worst hit, but a cloud of radioactive particles also drifted over central and northern Sweden and it was workers at the Forsmark Nuclear Power plant, near Gävle, who were the first to raise the alarm internationally. Wild boar populations in other parts of Europe, such as Germany, have also been contaminated with radioactivity in the aftermath of Chernobyl.