• Germany edition
 
Living the wildlife in Berlin
Photo: DPA

Living the wildlife in Berlin

Published: 20 May 2010 17:57 GMT+02:00
Updated: 20 May 2010 17:57 GMT+02:00

Encounters with wild animals in Berlin are generally moments of wonder – the fox quietly busy when spotted by a puffing jogger, the rabbits chasing each other across an open expanse of grass, the wild boar rooting around in the undergrowth of the woodland car park.

But there are times when the city’s furry residents irritate and inconvenience those of the two-legged variety – and this is when people call in Derk Ehlert, the German capital’s wildlife expert.

Officially he is in charge of “Protection of Biotopes and Species” for the Berlin city government. However much of his time is taken up acting as chief diplomat for relations between animal and humans.

On a recent spring day, his first stop was a large block of flats in the central district of Schöneberg, where rabbits had dug their warren entrance under a pathway causing part of it to collapse into the hole.

“We are worried this hole in the path will cause a problem, with people falling over and hurting themselves,” said the caretaker.

“There have always been rabbits here, but recently there seem to be more than ever. We used to see foxes here too. It was alright with the rabbits then, but this year there haven’t been any foxes.”

A wave of distemper had reduced fox numbers in Berlin, said Ehlert, which was why there were more rabbits than usual. He treated the concerns of the caretaker seriously, and offered tips of how to fill in all entrances to the warren at the same time as filling in the damage to the pathway with asphalt.

But he warned them not to get their hopes up of getting rid of them altogether.

“It would only work for a while – you will have rabbits again sooner or later,” he said.

“Imagine if there were three really great flats in the building, furnished and free – you could kick out the people living in there but you would soon have new people moving in.”

He said the caretaker would likely have to wait for the fox population to recover and come and restore the balance of predator to prey.

CLICK HERE FOR A GALLERY OF WILDLIFE IN BERLIN.

Ehlert’s next stop was to the rich district of Dahlem, where even the money available to the residents of the enormous villas had not saved their gardens from being used by wild boars to give birth.

“The expectant females leave the group and seek out somewhere quiet and safe to have their babies,” said Ehlert.

“That means they come into the town, and find nice quiet gardens where they are unlikely to be disturbed, either by other boars, or dogs. Of course they can be aggressive when disturbed in such a situation – either about to give birth or when protecting their babies.”

There was not much to be done in Dahlem either – the boars will leave of their own accord within a matter of weeks when the babies are strong enough to join the family group – although the gardens of nearby abandoned houses may well tempt them to return.

Logically, while people tend to stream out of the city into the forests at the weekend, this intrusion prompts an opposite commute by the boars – so they can get some peace and quiet.

“Of course they don’t know it’s Friday afternoon, but they see people taking their dogs out earlier and for longer, and they head into town where they can find food easily and undisturbed,” said Ehlert.

Yacht-loving raccoons

We then travelled to Spandau, where a member of a yacht club had been mightily surprised by a raccoon when he took his boat out for a spring return to the water.

With Ehlert on the phone for moral support and giving tips, he had managed to scare the raccoon off the boat, and discovered only minor damage to some cushions, indicating that the animal had not been there for too long.

“If it had been there all winter you would not have recognised the interior of the boat,” Ehlert told the man, who by the time of our visit had regained his composure.

We scouted around the area, looking at an under-construction boat house which Ehlert said could offer the kind of hiding place favoured by raccoons.

But the visit – like most during the day – was actually more about communicating with the people rather than rooting out the animals.

When he shows up to advise Berlin’s human residents, Ehlert is certainly there to help them – but he is also the city’s biggest wildlife advocate, educating the people and encouraging them to relax into the reality of living quite literally cheek-to-jowl with wildlife.

Most of his time is taken up with long-term work securing and preserving as much wildlife-friendly space in the city as possible. This involves delicate communication work with developers to try to get them to leave a few rough edges around their real estate projects.

He also managed to save Berlin’s most famous raccoon, which lives in the underground garage of a hotel on the city’s hectic Alexanderplatz square.

Ehlert said initially the hotel managers had appealed for suggestions of how to get rid of their unwanted guest, but he gently helped them realise it might make for better publicity if they were friendlier to the furry squatter.

Now named Alex and famous, there is no more talk of evicting him.

Hannah Cleaver (hannah.cleaver@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

00:31 May 21, 2010 by William Thirteen
there are some sweet looking featherless bipeds as well, the most dangerous game!
09:02 May 21, 2010 by Zobirdie
That pic is seriously awesome! :)
12:28 May 22, 2010 by William Thirteen
the local prosecutor is currently deciding whether to charge the raccoon for assaulting the paparazzi.
14:24 May 23, 2010 by Murkan Mike
Although the animals are 'cute' to some, soon they will spread disease and become a health hazard. For years, several of us Murkan hunters (all with German Jagdschien) have said that raising the restriction of bow hunting would allow the boar and foxes to be safely hunted in the inner cities.

The animals could then be safely thinned down to acceptable levels, which would keep them out of the cities. They definately do not belong there.
17:21 May 27, 2010 by martell
Since when do wild animals which adapted to the city spread diseases to humans in the city? Proof?

You do not seriously believe that a private hunter will be permitted to hunt within the city of Berlin? They do not like any projectiles flying around in Berlin anymore, neither lead nor fiberglass. They had enough of flying lead in '45.

No chance for bowhunting, it will stay outlawed because of the Protection of Animals Act anyway. It is seen as an unnecessarily cruelty towards animals. Definitely.

By the way, murkan hunter, I even don't know if hunting for murkans is legal in Europe at all; never seen those in the open range anywhere... :D
23:56 May 27, 2010 by fritzwiz
Where are the squirrels, have they all been eaten? In September the city is covered in acorns and chestnuts, you have to kick them out of your way on the sidewalks. Not one squirrel in sight to feast on this bounty. Now is the time to re-introduce them. With all the Oak and Chestnut trees in Berlin they would be able to thrive.

Fritzwiz
Today's headlines
Court rules against child porn suspect Edathy
Former SPD MP Sebastian Edathy photographed at a press conference in February. Photo: DPA

Court rules against child porn suspect Edathy

The Constitutional Court on Friday rejected an attempt by former Social Democratic (SPD) MP Sebastian Edathy to have evidence against him thrown out in his trial for possession of child pornography. READ  

Student busted in case of misdelivered hash
Photo: DPA

Student busted in case of misdelivered hash

A Bavarian student expecting a cannabis delivery was collared by "Commissioner Fluke" after acting surprised in front of policemen when he saw his letter box was empty. READ  

Security fears block Germany-Israel match
German and Israeli fans cheer in the stands during a friendly in Leipzig in 2012. Photo: DPA

Security fears block Germany-Israel match

A friendly soccer match against Israel marking 50 years of diplomatic ties has been called off amid security concerns and the escalation of the Middle East conflict, the German Football Federation (DFB) said on Friday. READ  

Germany's brain drain is Europe's gain
Inside the terminal at the Frankfurt International Airport. Photo: Shutterstock

Germany's brain drain is Europe's gain

Figures from the European Union show that while many German professionals are able to find work abroad with their well-recognised qualifications, Germany doesn't always extend the same courtesy to foreigners. READ  

S-Bahn arson in support of refugees, group claims
Passengers at Berlin's Ostkreuz station yesterday as information screens relay news of the disruption. Photo: DPA

S-Bahn arson in support of refugees, group claims

A radical left-wing group claimed responsibility on Friday for an arson attack that cut power to several S-Bahn lines and caused transport chaos in Berlin, saying it was intended to awaken people to the plight of refugees. READ  

Pilots' strike over, but disruption continues
Passengers in Hannover check departure boards showing cancelled Germanwings flights. Photo: DPA

Pilots' strike over, but disruption continues

UPDATE: Germanwings pilots have ended their six-hour strike which grounded 116 flights and up to 15,000 passengers of Lufthansa subsidiary Germanwings on Friday. READ  

Man narrowly escapes unwelcome drop-in
Emergency services use a crane to lift the fallen crane in Cologne. Photo: DPA

Man narrowly escapes unwelcome drop-in

A Cologne resident was pinned to his bed after a 40-metre construction crane toppled onto his home early on Friday. READ  

'Further sanctions' could hit Russia, says Merkel
Merkel looking grave at Thursday's West Balkan conference in Berlin. Photo: DPA

'Further sanctions' could hit Russia, says Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday that European leaders will discuss the worsening Ukraine crisis and possible further sanctions against Russia at a weekend summit. READ  

UK-Germany rivalries live again in Champs League
Bayern Munich captain Philipp Lahm with fellow World Cup champion Bastian Schweinsteiger. Photo: DPA

UK-Germany rivalries live again in Champs League

The 2014-15 Champions League draw yesterday brought déjà-vu for English and German clubs as old opponents found themselves facing off once again. READ  

German of the Week
Animal activist fights off murder threats
Photo: DPA

Animal activist fights off murder threats

Friedrich Mülln has been dragged through the courts and threatened with murder during his years of animal rights activism. His latest court case was in Munich this week but he tells The Local he has no plans to give up the fight. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: Shutterstock
Gallery
Ten of the oddest things found by German border control
Photo: Gerkan, Marg and Partners/Tegel Projekt GmbH/J. Mayer
Berlin
How will Berlin look in five years' time?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? 10 reasons why you should
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The best of Berlin's mayor Klaus Wowereit in 14 pictures
Photo: DPA
Politics
Germany sends burgers and sausages to Kurds
Photo: Matthias Kock
National
Tribes, ties and a movie: A German's Afghan life
Photo: DPA
Gallery
10 things to do before summer in Germany is really over
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The mysteries of Berlin's abandoned theme park
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,699
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd