Many boars in Germany and Austria can trot around the woods unbothered by humans.
And it has now been revealed that hunters are not likely to go after their meat, as the bodies of the wild boars have been found to contain a high level of radioactive caesium, which makes them extremely unsafe for human consumption.
The presence of radioactive boars in central Europe has been known for years, but their status had been largely attributed to the Chernobyl disaster, which in April 1986 released into the atmosphere some 27kg of caesium-137, one of the two radioactive isotopes of caesium causing the most concerns for health.
While the level of caesium-137 should have diminished relatively quickly in the boars, researchers noted it still remains high in these animals.
Scientists at the Vienna University of Technology carried out a study that concluded the high level of radioactivity seen in these boars may have been caused instead by the testing of nuclear weapons.
The scientists’ study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, showed these boars’ body are rich in caesium-135, the element closely associated with nuclear fission in weaponry.
While the nuclear weapon tests happened in the Cold War years following World War II, radioactivity still affects parts of the German soil and has affected in particular the deer truffles, beloved by the boars.
A release from the American Chemical Society noted: “To determine the origin of the radioactivity, the team compared the amount of caesium-135 to caesium-137 with a sophisticated mass spectrometer.
“Previous studies showed that this ratio clearly indicates sources — a high ratio points to nuclear weapons explosions, whereas a low ratio implicates nuclear reactors.”
The research found that the tests of nuclear weapons supplied between 10 per cent and 68 per cent of the contamination in the boars.
It also said: “In some samples, the amount of caesium from weapons alone exceeded regulatory limits. The researchers propose that the mid-20th century weapons tests were an underappreciated source of radioactive caesium to German soil, which was also unevenly impacted by the Chernobyl accident.”
The soil absorbed radiation from these nuclear weapons, the researchers said, impacting a source of food for these boars, deer truffles.
Samples of these underground mushrooms showed 88 per cent were above the levels of radioactive caesium deemed safe in food.
The study read: “The key to this phenomenon is underground mushrooms, the deer truffles. [They are] eaten only or mostly by boars, not by other animals.
“[It is] caused by the slow migration of caesium through soil and it takes time for the caesium to reach the truffles, hence the time delay.
“Contamination from both sources have been taken up by the wild boars’ food, such as underground truffles, contributing to their persistent radioactivity.”