NewsThe cute problem bear

The cute problem bear

Created: 8/25/2022 3:34 p.m

Sein natürlicher Feind ist höchstens der Wolf. Imago Images
Its natural enemy is at most the wolf. Imago Images © Imago Images

Raccoons sometimes cause enormous damage and are considered a threat to endangered species.

Raccoons are funny and smart. “They like to drink beer,” said the biologist Berthold Langenhorst from the Nabu Hessen nature conservation association during a leisure time at the Edersee. The trusting guests knocked over the bottles and then took a few sips. But raccoons also cause tremendous damage. They move into attics, tear out the insulation and leave stinking latrines behind. In the garden they eat fruit trees and clear out bird nests. And they also cause major problems in nature conservation.

In a basalt quarry in the Main-Kinzig district, for example, raccoons robbed spawning waters and left behind dozens of skinned natterjack toads. Conservationists found yellow-bellied toads killed by raccoons on water bodies in central Hesse. Langenhorst reports that raccoons in the Spessart run off the toad protection fences on the streets and eat the toads that have fallen into the buckets – evening after evening.

The story of the raccoon in Germany probably begins in 1934 with two pairs abandoned at the Edersee. Since then, the animals, which originated in North America, have continued to spread. They have long been at home in the water-rich regions of Hesse, Lower Saxony and Brandenburg. Kassel is considered a stronghold. “The raccoon has meanwhile crossed the Main,” says Langenhorst. “The commuter belt around Frankfurt is raccoon country.”

Raccoons are very good swimmers and very good climbers. They are omnivores, which we have no natural enemies – at most the wolf. “The raccoon gets by anytime and anywhere,” says Markus Stifter from the Hesse State Hunting Association. “He specializes quickly,” in Brandenburg, for example, digging up eggs from the endangered European pond turtle. If there are animal species in his territory that “have a hard time anyway”, such as partridges, skylarks, lapwings or crested newts, the raccoon increases the pressure on these species as an additional predator, explains Stifter.

Availability in this country unclear

Conservationists are trying hard to protect the animals threatened with extinction, for example with collars on trees in which red kites have built their nests, with cages over lapwing nests or electric fences around bodies of water. But those are high fences so that the raccoons don’t climb over them, “not nice for the landscape,” Langenhorst concedes.

It is unclear how many raccoons live in Germany. In 1954, Hesse was the first federal state to incorporate it into hunting law. The number of animals killed by hunters rose from 122 in the 1960/61 hunting year to almost 30,000 in the 2020/21 hunting year. Raccoons are either shot or caught with modern live traps and then killed, Stifter explains. That’s not nice. But once caught, as an invasive species, they are not allowed back into the wild.

Even the Nabu says local, “small-scale hunting” is needed where raccoons threaten endangered species. However, Langenhorst also emphasizes that raccoons occupy territories, “and then the population does not continue to grow”. This is apparently the case in northern Hesse. In southern Hesse, on the other hand, the stocks are growing.

In addition, everyone can help to make their life a little more difficult: lock garbage cans securely, don’t leave cat and dog food outside, don’t leave any food on the compost, don’t put food in public garbage cans, secure the attic and basement so that the raccoons can’t get into the house . Stefanie Walter, epd

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