Since the re-appearance of wild boars in Sweden in the 1970s, the population has increased. Besides having large litter sizes, puberty at an early age is considered as an important factor contributing to the high reproductive potential of wild boar. Although controversial, supplemental feeding is applied to varying extent throughout the wild boar range in Sweden, and its effect on wild boar reproduction is debated. The aim of this study was to investigate the proportion of post-pubertal female wild boar gilts in a population subjected to supplemental feeding, in relation to age, weight, and season. Also, the effect of another definition of puberty (based upon follicular size) on the outcome of the proportion of female wild boar gilts considered to be able to reproduce in a population was illustrated. Between Jan 2013 and Dec 2015 reproductive organs from 592 female wild boars, were collected. Ovaries and uterus were macroscopically examined, and reproductive stage was determined by the presence of ovarian structures and uterus characteristics. Age was estimated using tooth eruption and tooth replacement, and weight was noted. A subset of 175 female wild boars, aged 5-15 months, was included in this study. An animal was considered to be post-pubertal if the ovaries contained one or more corpora lutea (CL) or if the uterus showed signs of previous pregnancy (presence of enlarged blood vessels in the cut surface between the mesometric ligament and the uterus).
In total, 29 (16.6 %) animals were classified as post-pubertal. Field dressed weight ranged from 20.6 to 65.3 kg. Season, weight, and age class significantly influenced the variation in proportion of post-pubertal females. Post-pubertal animals were found in autumn, winter, and spring, but not in the summer season. Another definition of puberty, based on follicle size, lead to different result on proportions of animals considered to have passed puberty.
Season, weight, and age significantly influenced the variation in proportion of post-pubertal wild boar females. The proportion of post-pubertal animals increased with age and weight. However, weight is probably a better proxy for puberty than age group is. The proportion of post-pubertal females also increased from summer to spring suggesting a seasonal reproductive pattern. Different definitions of puberty will result in various outcomes, which high-lights the importance of using adequate definition of puberty.