Radioactive wild boars are on the rise in Germany, where they have attacked and frightened residents, even snarling traffic when they gang up on roadways, according to Spiegel International Online and numerous other media reports over the past couple of weeks.

SLIDE SHOW: Top 10 Countries Using Nuclear Power

Their radioactivity stems from Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear meltdown, which happened way back in 1986, but contaminated much of Europe. Apparently the nuclear contamination is still detectable in some animals, including Germany’s wild boars.

(Image: dieraecherin)

The Spiegel report mentions that German government payments compensating hunters for lost income due to radioactive wild boar meat have quadrupled since 2007. Last year alone, $555,000 was paid to hunters who found themselves with inedible boar meat, due to its radioactivity. The hunters would have otherwise sold the meat, but it was deemed unfit for human consumption.

But the problem isn’t just radioactivity. Despite the contamination, wild boars are multiplying in record numbers.

SLIDE SHOW: The New Nuclear Option

“In the last couple of years, wild boar have rapidly multiplied,” a spokesman from the Environment Ministry told Spiegel Online. “Not only is there more corn being farmed, but warmer winters have also contributed to a boar boom.”

The German Hunting Federation supports this claim. During the 2008/2009 hunting season, approximately 650,000 wild boar were shot, breaking previous records for such kills. Only 287,000 were shot the prior season, suggesting that fewer of these animals were around for the competitive hunters to target.

Wild boar remains a popular meat in Germany, where it’s found in everything from stews to meatballs. Diners don’t seem to be too deterred by the nuclear contamination scare, but the governmental reports on the meat aren’t very appetizing. Spiegel mentions that Germany forbids anyone to sell meat containing high levels of

radioactive caesium-137, meaning that animals with contamination levels of 600 becquerel per kilogram or higher must not be eaten. Some meat in Southern Germany has been measured at 7,000 becquerel per kilogram, however.

SEE ALSO: Top 5 Worst Nuclear Disasters

Although the radioactivity has been detected in other animals, such as birds, wild boar are more susceptible to contamination because they often eat mushrooms and truffles that absorb the harmful radioactivity. The radioactivity, in turn, can remain in the soil for years. In fact, levels in mushrooms and truffles are predicted to rise in the not too distant future. 

(Truffles; Image: Poppy)

“In the regions where it is particularly problematic, all boar that

are shot are checked for radiation,” Andreas Leppmann, from the

German Hunting Federation, told Spiegel.

Hunters aren’t idly standing by. They’ve found a concoction called Giese salt that supposedly causes wild boar to excrete radioactive substances after the animals have ingested the salt. Work performed in Bavaria, according to the Bavarian Hunting Federation, indicates the salt does the trick, presumably allowing the meat to pass government inspections.

SEE ALSO: Is Nuclear Energy Safe?

It’s already been 24 years since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, but experts are predicting the problem of radioactive wild boars will plague Germany “for at least the next 50 years.”