As it turns out, they've been radioactive for a very long time.
Wild boars have become so radioactive that German hunters aren't even bothering to pursue them anymore.
And while the prevailing theory has been that the Chernobyl nuclear plant meltdown in 1986 is behind this bizarre phenomenon, new research suggests the critters have been radioactive since long before that.
In a new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, researchers from Leibniz University in Hanover, Germany, and the Vienna University of Technology in Austriadiscovered unusually high levels of radioactive cesium in 48 samples of wild boar meat from across southern Germany — a surprising reminder of the seemingly eternal afterlives of radioactive materials and how they can continue to haunt the natural environment.
A shocking 88 percent of the samples examined by the researchers exceeded the safe limits of the isotope, suggesting hunters may be entirely justified in hunting different game instead.
But that's not the whole story. By analyzing the samples, the researchers concluded that the boars were likely contaminated by fallout that dates back to nuclear weapon tests during the Cold War, long before the Chernobyl disaster even happened.
In other words, it's not just one catastrophe in history that's causing wild boars to become radioactive.
"Our findings demonstrate that the superposition of older and newer legacies of cesium-137 can vastly surpass the impact of any singular yet dominant source," the paper reads, "and thus highlight the critical role of historical releases of cesium-137 in current environmental pollution challenges."
This still leaves a big question unanswered: why wild boars specifically?
Research has shown that radioactive fallout has moved underground over many decades. Wild boars rely on scrounging around in the ground for sustenance, which means they're constantly unearthing radioactive material.
Little do the hungry critters know that they're turning themselves into walking reminders of nuclear tests from over half a century ago.
More on radioactive wild boars: Fukushima Now Home to Radioactive Boar-Pig Hybrids
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