• 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
Manhunt on for police officer's killer
Police searching the area on Thursday morning have released an e-fit of the suspect. Photo: DPA/Polizei Hessen

Manhunt on for police officer's killer

A police officer was shot dead in a street in western Germany on Wednesday night, prompting a large-scale manhunt for the culprit. READ  

'Auschwitz criminal,' 89, dies ahead of extradition
Photo: DPA

'Auschwitz criminal,' 89, dies ahead of extradition

An 89-year-old American and alleged Nazi war criminal died just hours before a US court approved his extradition to Germany, his lawyer said late on Wednesday. READ  

Robots could take half of jobs in Germany
The employee of the future? Photo: DPA

Robots could take half of jobs in Germany

More than half of the jobs currently being done in Germany could be taken over by robots in the next 20 years, according to a think-tank. READ  

Germany puts 700,000 WWI docs online
Prisoners of War pictured in 1918. Photo: Bundesarchiv/Bild 183-S45825

Germany puts 700,000 WWI docs online

Hundreds of thousands of rare records and images from World War I have been put online by the German government, ahead of Monday's 100th anniversary of the start of the conflict. READ  

Merkel to push for 'swift' EU Russia sanctions
Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Vladimir Putin chat with Fifa President Sepp Blatter (c) in Brazil before the 2014 World Cup final. Photo: DPA

Merkel to push for 'swift' EU Russia sanctions

UPDATE: Russia's failure to help quell the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine and fully assist the investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 demanded a tough response, a German government spokesman said on Wednesday. READ  

Löw to remain Germany coach to 2016
Joachim Löw (l) during a coaching session in Brazil. Photo:DPA

Löw to remain Germany coach to 2016

UPDATE: Joachim Löw will remain German national football team coach following the World Cup victory in Brazil, he confirmed on Wednesday. READ  

Pressure on police over anti-Semitic protests
A pro-Palestine demonstration in Berlin on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Pressure on police over anti-Semitic protests

Demands are growing in Germany for the prosecution of protesters in Berlin, Frankfurt and other cities who led anti-Semitic chants and incited violence against Jews over Israel's military offensive in Gaza. READ  

The Local List
The 12 best words in the German language
Photo: DPA

The 12 best words in the German language

The Local List has covered all aspects of German words, from the untranslatable to the longest. But we've never done a ranking of what are simply the best words in the German language, until now... READ  

Munich police find 49 refugees on one train
Police arrested three Italians for allegedly driving 25 Syrians into Germany on Tuesday. Photo: Bundespolizei

Munich police find 49 refugees on one train

Police in Munich found 49 refugees on one train which arrived at the city’s central station from Italy on Monday night. Officers in the Bavarian capital have reported a “huge increase” in the number of people arriving illegally over the last few weeks at Munich's train terminal. READ  

Yoga helped Jogi's boys bring World Cup home
Coach Joachim Löw ensured his team had a yoga instructor with them at all times. Photo: DPA

Yoga helped Jogi's boys bring World Cup home

Germany’s World Cup winning football team have revealed one of the secrets of their success in Brazil this summer – yoga. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Politics
View from Germany: 'Nobody will win in an economic war with Russia'
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Jobtalk: How innovative is Germany?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
German Bucket List: How many of these can you tick off?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Joachim Löw: A career in pictures
Photo: Submitted
Society
Is this expat cat the world's oldest?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Germany's week in pictures: July 12th - July 18th
Photo: DPA
National
Heatwave to bring highs of 36C to Germany
Photo: DPA
Analysis & Opinion
Should Germany follow France and ban the burqa?
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Which workers is Germany short of?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Ten best expat jobs in Germany: Which one would you choose?
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Photo: Shutterstock
Features
Some of the most embarrassing mistakes you can make in German
Education
Raising the bar for law & business in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
Sponsored Article
Bilingual school turning education on its head
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

3,236
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd