Farmers have warned the Scottish Government it could face a compensation bill for hundreds of thousands of pounds if it fails to eradicate wild pigs that are destroying crops.
The animals, which have escaped or been released from wild boar farms, are increasingly being reported, amid warnings that if something is not done soon their numbers will be unmanageable.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is studying the extent and impact of escaped or released wild boar in the Invergarry area of Lochaber and at a handful of sites in Dumfries and Galloway.
It was due to issue a report to the Scottish Government in July with recommendations on how to deal with the animals, but that has been put back to November.
In June, SNH warned that if the Scottish Government does not act quickly it will be impossible to eradicate them.
However, some farmers fear the SNP administration will decide to allow the pigs to carry on living in the wild.
John Bruce, a wheat farmer in Perthshire, said: “There are those who say pigs are marvellous for re-wilding the countryside and you get down to whether the government values farmers making use of the land in a manageable fashion or are they all for chaos, because they seem rather keen on chaos.
“The chaos they are keen on are species that we have got rid of previously, like beavers, lynx and wolves – society said they don’t want these creatures and here we are prevaricating about reintroducing them.”
Mr Bruce pointed to Germany where the rate of compensation can be €10,000 (about £8,800) per hectare for grass being grown to make hay.
He said: “That’s what it costs to re-establish a field of grass and suffer the loss for a year or two of a crop – that is what the growing rate is, it is fiendish.
“If the government allows any creature which has a nuisance factor to re-establish they should compensate and take responsibility for it.”
The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) has said it has had reports of “significant damage” to farmland in the West Highlands caused by wild pigs and the group’s colleagues in England have reported escaped boar killing young lambs.
An SGA spokesman said: “If it was decided to let wild boar roam free, it would be very difficult to grant this without introducing a compensation scheme, like they have in many other European countries where boar are allowed free range.
“In the Forest of Dean in England, there is now an annual population growth rate of 300 per cent. It would be inconceivable that there would be no agricultural damage.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We look forward to receiving SNH’s report and will consider its findings and recommendations carefully.”