Lifestyle & Belief

Germany unsure how to handle exploding raccoon population


A raccoon swimming in a pond in Worbis, eastern Germany.


Jens-Ulrich Koch

BERLIN, Germany -- Nearly a million raccoons are popping up all over Germany, but the powerful European nation appears passive in the face of invasion.

Forest biologist Ulf Hohmann told Der Spiegel the number of raccoons will soon reach a million. Meanwhile, statistics show the number killed in the country reached a record 67,000 this year -- a figure that has animal rights' activists wringing their hands. (Ten years earlier, noted the LA Times, the figure was only 9,000.)

Many of the critters are lured into traps set with chocolate. Aww!

"It's a present of the American people," Derk Ehlert, chief wildlife officer for the city of Berlin, wryly observed to the LA Times. Indeed, the North American native was first introduced to Germany in the 1920s and the species has flourished due to the region's mind climate -- particularly in the raccoon-heavy German states of Hesse, Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt, according to Der Spiegel

The pushy little creatures often have rather comic interactions with the more reserved Germans, as the LA Times has it

"This month, to the bewilderment of other passengers, two raccoons boarded a subway train, said Ehlert, who did not know the pair's final destination. Excited, anxious or nonplused Berliners constantly ring up his office to report sightings. 'We're getting 50 calls a day…. I know of at least 500 raccoon families in the city,' Ehlert said. 'They are the most intelligent mammals in Europe. They're very quick.'"

Der Spiegel said residents in one raccoon-infested area has organized a special October raccoon hunt, which they hope will turn quite deadly. The paper also denied rumors that Nazi Hermann Göring had been the one responsible for introducing the predatory creatures to the wild. 

However, Britain's tabloid press, never one to let the facts get in the way of a good story, proceeded to announce: "Nazi raccoons on [the] warpath," said the LA Times, citing The Sun's headline, adding that "an illustration of a masked raccoon, foreleg raised with a swastika-stamped red armband, punctuated the point."