PEOPLE are being urged not to approach piglets in the New Forest during pannage season over fears they might be attacked by a protective sow.
Over the summer there have been several incidents involving ponies and cattle in the Forest caused by visitors taking selfies with and feeding them.
Adults and children have been attacked after they attempted to pet the wild animals.
More than 600 pigs are released into the Forest during pannage, which started on Monday and runs to 10th November this year, to eat acorns and other nuts which are poisonous to New Forest ponies.
Now the verderers are alerting people to the fact that sows can react violently if they go near them or their piglets. They also warn dog owners not to go anywhere near the pigs if they see them.
A spokesperson for the verderers, who organise the tradition with Forestry England, said: “Piglets look very cute and sweet but their mother might not be.
“A sow becomes very protective and if they feel threatened – or feel their piglets are – they can go on the attack.
“A sow can run surprisingly quickly, they can certainly run after a dog. Our advice is to enjoy pannage season but keep clear of the pigs.
“Do not approach them and only take photos from a safe distance. Dog owners should also steer clear and not let their pets off the lead near the pigs.”
The organisation is also asking drivers to be extra careful on Forest roads as the pigs can often be found there eating acorns.
Pannage dates back to the time of William the Conqueror but has been dying out, with the New Forest one of the few places upholding the tradition.
The season may be extended if all the acorns and other nuts are not gone by November 10th.
The Verderers spokesperson said: “It is a relatively heavy acorn crop this year and if there are still acorns on the ground towards the end of pannage it will be extended.
“Acorns are extremely poisonous to ponies so we have to make sure they are all gone.”