The population of radioactive wild boars in Germany is (figuratively) exploding of late, with the average boar in one tested area showing more than ten times the level of radioactivity deemed safe by the government.
But the mushrooming crowd of radioactive boars has less to do with mushroom clouds than with plain old mushrooms.
It’s believed that the boars are ingesting the radioactive isotope cesium-137 from mushrooms and truffles contaminated by the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986. Whereas a lot of vegetation in the area is displaying declining levels of radiation as the years go on, radiation in mushrooms is flat and possibly even on the rise:
Wild boar are particularly susceptible to radioactive contamination due to their predilection for chomping on mushrooms and truffles, which are particularly efficient at absorbing radioactivity. Indeed, whereas radioactivity in some vegetation is expected to continue declining, the contamination of some types of mushrooms and truffles will likely remain the same, and may even rise slightly — even a quarter century after the Chernobyl accident.
Many of the boar that are killed land on the plates of diners across Germany, but it is forbidden to sell meat containing high levels of radioactive caesium-137 — any animals showing contamination levels higher than 600 becquerel per kilogram must be disposed of. But in some areas of Germany, particularly in the south, wild boar routinely show much higher levels of contamination. According to the Environment Ministry, the average contamination for boar shot in Bayerischer Wald, a forested region on the Bavarian border with the Czech Republic, was 7,000 becquerel per kilogram. Other regions in southern Germany aren’t much better.
Alas, Germany’s radioactive boar problem may not go away anytime soon: The radioactivity expert interviewed by Der Spiegel said it would likely continue for at least 50 years.