Posts Tagged: research

Hungry boars in the Great Smoky Mountains

For our first “From the Bookshelf” feature, an excerpt from a study of European boars in the Great Smoky Mountains conducted by the NPS in the 1970’s. If you’re interested, I’ve provided some links to the species of boar treats they found.


Acorns of several species were the major portion of the diet in fall, winter, and spring at low elevations. In summer, at high elevations, serviceberries and blueberries ( Vaccinium spp.) were important during short periods. At low elevations in summer, the samples was dominated by one individual’s consumption of Japanese quince (Chanomeles lagenaria), an introduced species found at old homesites.


Green foliage (leaves and stems) composed the bulk of the high elevation spring and summer diet (73.2 and 52.3 percent). Vernal herbs such as spring beauty (Claytonia virginica), great chickweed (Stellaria pubera), Trillium spp. and Viola spp., and aestival herbs such as white snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum), wood nettle (Laportea canadensis), and Aster spp. were most important. More than 23 species of herbs were eaten. Grasses, especially sedges (Carex spp.) were found in all seasons in all locations, although they were never a major component (0.6 to 8.3 percent) of the diet.

Roots and Bulbs

This category included woody roots, tubers, bulbs, corms, rhizomes, and other underground bodies. Roots and bulbs, predominantly spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) corms were an important part of spring and summer diet (25.2 and 31.1 percent). Only in summer, at low elevations, were woody roots found to be an important constituent (13.2 percent).


Mushrooms and other fungal material were found only during summer at low elevations (18.6 percent). It is not possible to identify these because of considerable mastication and digestion.


Invertebrates were found in all but two stomachs analyzed, although their percent composition is rather low (0.15 – 8.2 percent). Insects and other arthropods, as well as snails (Gastropoda) and earth worms (Oligochaeta), were found. Walking-stick insects (Phasmatidae) were very important during a period in the fall. Other insects found were helgramite (Corydalidae larvae) , several families of adult and larval beetles (Coleoptera) , caterpillars (Lepidoptera larvae) , fly larvae (Diptera) , and ants (Hymenoptera) . Other arthropods found were millipedes
(Diplopoda), centipedes (Chilopoda), and crayfish (Decapoda). There was no recognizable seasonal trend in types of invertebrates consumed, except that earthworms were only eaten during during warm months and at low elevations. There seems to be a trend in volume, however. Fall is very high compared to others, but this may be due to Cades Cove bias.


Frequency of occurrence for vertebrates was high (45 percent), although percent volume was low (0.0 to 2.3 percent). Salamanders (7 species) were especially common. Best estimates of absolute number of salamanders eaten in summer at high elevations is 1.75 salamanders per stomach, of which 1.33 were the endemic Red-cheeked salamander (Plethodon jordani jordanl) , with as many as 7 of that species of salamander in 1 stomach. Salamanders occurred in 53 percent of all stomachs examined. Small mammals were found, but were generally so severely masticated that identification was not made. Mice (Peromyscus spp.) and a shrew (Sorex spp.) were noted. Portions of 2 reptiles were found and also portions of an identified snake and a shell fragment of Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) . Several small feathers were found but these may have been consumed as litter. Other unidentifiable animal tissue, which may have been eaten as carrion, was also found.