Residents have been told they must deal with marauding packs of wild boar themselves.

Controlling feral boar populations will be left to local groups and landowners in Sussex, the Government said yesterday.

Ministers decided against Government- led eradication for the boar which have escaped or been released into the wild.

Instead the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the animals, which are not protected and can be shot, should be dealt with by local people with guidance provided by the Government under an action plan released yesterday.

Biodiversity minister Joan Ruddock said: "It is important that communities and landowners are allowed to decide the future of their wild boar populations based on their local situation.

"We will continue to look at the effect of feral wild boar on the environment and will review our action plan in three years to ensure it is working."

The plan provides technical information such as which firearms to use to shoot them if they become a nuisance and advice on making sure any feral wild boar meat that is sold for food is safe. There are concerns the wild boar could pose a risk to agriculture, spread animal diseases such as foot and mouth or swine fever, or threaten biodiversity and human welfare.

A campaign for the return of the sport of boar hunting has been given a boost after a Government consultation revealed there was overwhelming public support.

About 80 per cent of people surveyed in a Government poll in 2006, said they were in favour of wild boar being hunted to protect human safety and prevent damage to native plants such as bluebells that thrive in woodland areas inhabited by the animals in Sussex.

Up to 1,000 wild boar and feral pigs are thought to be living in the county, particularly around the Sussex Weald.

Without action, Defra ministers have been told their number could easily reach 10,000 within 20 years. Boar are prized as a formidable quarry and the move could attract game hunters from across the Continental Europe where boar meat is still regularly eaten. Defra believes boar are responsible for a number of road crashes every year and even direct attacks on people.

Wild boar became extinct in Britain around the end of the 13th century but made a comeback mainly because of escapes from farms and abattoirs.

The League Against Cruel Sports, the Born Free Foundation and The People's Trust for Endangered Species oppose the reintroduction of hunting.

Locations of the most recent sightings of wild boar reported on the British Wild Boar website include Peasmarsh, Piltdown and Broadoak.

Have you seen a wild boar?