The German Hunting Association said last week that 71,071 raccoons were killed in the 2011/2012 hunting season – 3,365 more than the year before. There are an estimated half a million of the animals across the country.
The furry North American interloper is considered a pest in Germany, due to its tendency to hunt a wide variety of native animals, including birds, bats and anything else they can get their hands on.
“Environmentalists and hunters agree that raccoons must be hunted more intensively,” said hunting journalist Peter Burckhardt.
“The raccoon is a well-known climber and a serious meat-eater,” said Rostock zoologist Ragnar Kinzelbach. “He can get to nests in the trees that other predators can’t.”
Racoons began popping up across Germany in the 1930s after they were brought over from the US to Berlin and Kassel. Now they can be seen rooting around in the bins and gardens of almost every state.
“It’s clear that the racoon fills an ecological niche,” said Johannes Prüter, head of the protected nature reserve around the river Elbe. He added that there was clear evidence to show their numbers were rising, and some had even been spotted raiding the nests of sea eagles.
But the raccoon was not the sea eagle’s biggest worry: “The mink is much worse, it feeds along the water where water-based birds nest,” said zoologist Kinzelbach.
The blame for the invasion of Germany’s new residents lay with people, said Neozoen a zoological magazine said. Our traffic and monocultural agriculture were killing off native species, which in a less stressed environment would be more able to integrate other, new species without a hitch.