Raccoons polarize. Some find them cute, others are annoyed by the trash cans that have been ransacked and all sorts of rubbish that has been dragged into the attic. And anyway: The little fluffy immigrants from North America also threaten native species, right? Four Myths About Raccoons Reality Check.
Hermann Goering settled the raccoon in Germany
In 2012 British newspapers wrote about an invasion the Nazi Racoons. In German: Nazi raccoons. Their claim: Hermann Göring had the little bears released, which are now spreading throughout Europe.
Correct is: The North American small bears were actually settled in Germany during the Nazi era, namely in 1934. Wilhelm Sittich Freiherr von Berlepsch, who managed the forestry office in Vöhl am Edersee, was responsible for this. A breeder from the area offered two pairs of raccoons from Berlepsch. He saw the Edersee as the ideal habitat for the animals and liked the idea of being able to hunt them. The head of the forestry office in Berlin asked the hunting authorities for permission to release the animals, which were actually under the control of Hermann Goering. Even before von Berlepsch received written approval, he released the animals at the Edersee.
The story that Goering personally settled the animals in Germany is probably so successful because it fits the picture so well. Indeed, the leading Nazi and war criminal had a very specific interest in releasing animals. For example, Göring wanted to reintroduce the aurochs, which became extinct in Germany in the 17th century. He crossed different bulls and cows to revive the extremely large and bulky animals. The result was a significantly smaller and lighter species that genetically had little in common with the aurochs. Then, in the 2000s, a British farmer made headlines: he wanted to keep Goering’s “Aurochs” but failed. The oxen were so aggressive that he couldn’t approach them. After all, he had to shoot all the animals.
Kassel is the raccoon capital
Correct is: In fact, the animals in the city do always headlines. For example, in 2019 a raccoon destroyed the facility of a car repair shop in the Kassel district. The animal tore down the ceiling panel and destroyed lamps. The damage amounted to around 10,000 euros, as the owner of the workshop announced.
Because the cute bears like to riot, the city of Kassel has tips on its website for protection: For example, residents should secure their garbage cans with a lock. The north Hessian city has its reputation as the raccoon capital: there are an average of 100 raccoons on 100 hectares, as the state hunting association estimates. Elsewhere, there are an average of only four animals in the same area. But the numbers are uncertain because there are no exact statistics on the raccoon population. The animals seem to be spreading more and more in Hesse over the years, like them Number of annual kills suggests. In 2009, just under 15,000 raccoons were killed in Hesse, in 2020 it was almost 30,000. The kills are also increasing nationwide: in 2009 there were almost 50,000 raccoons, in 2020 over 200,000.
But why are there so many raccoons in Kassel? One of the reasons for this is the above-mentioned head of the Edersee forestry office, who released the North American bears there in 1934. The Edersee is only fifty kilometers away from Kassel. From there, the animals spread throughout Germany. “Most raccoons descend from animals that were abandoned at the Edersee,” says Andreas Kinser from the German Wildlife Foundation. It is also particularly favorable that the outskirts of Kassel flow smoothly into the surrounding forests. So the raccoons could easily gain a foothold.
As if he couldn’t muddy his waters: the raccoon is extremely cute, but not without controversy.
© Source: Patrick Pleul/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa-tmn/archive image
Raccoons wash their food
Correct is: “It’s a myth that raccoons wash their food,” says Claudia Harnisch from the Nature Conservation Union (NABU). The animals just often make movements that appear as if they are cleaning something between their paws. Raccoons like to eat frogs, crabs and small fish. When they try to catch them with their front paws in shallow water, it looks like they are washing. The myth of the washing bear was very widespread up until the 1970s. This is also because in captivity they actually sometimes wave their food in the water. However, that is coincidence.
Because even away from streams and rivers, the animals often make washing movements. When they rub their front paws together, it looks like they are miming washing their hands. “The washing movements are practically in the DNA of the raccoons,” knows expert Harnisch. So the raccoon can’t help but make these moves. Regardless of whether it is in the water or not.
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Raccoons displace native species
Correct is: Experts are hotly discussing whether raccoons are displacing native species. In the 1970s, forest rangers feared that raccoons might pose a threat to foxes. But the fear turned out to be unfounded. “It is not possible to give a general answer as to whether the raccoon drives out native species,” explains Claudia Harnisch from NABU. But the fact is: raccoons like to eat amphibians and eggs. Both can also affect animals that are threatened. Andreas Kinser from the German Wildlife Foundation explains: “Amphibians, such as the rare pond turtle, are particularly threatened by the raccoon.” If there are only a few animals of a species, an attack by the raccoon hits them particularly sensitively.
Lesser spotted eagle eggs could also be preyed on by raccoons. Conservation projects would therefore be endangered by the small bear. The German Wildlife Foundation thinks it is right to hunt and reduce raccoons in order to protect other animal species. Hunters are allowed to kill raccoons all year round, with the exception of closed seasons, which exist in some federal states. However, experts also point out that humans are much more dangerous to most endangered species than raccoons.
Raccoons are real survivors – this is one of the reasons why they were able to spread almost all over Germany and thus pose a threat to some native species. They eat almost everything: berries, compost residues, meat, carrion …. During the hibernation they even go a few days without food. Raccoons like to live near rivers and lakes, but this is not a requirement. “The only thing the raccoon really needs is a den to give birth to its young,” says Andreas Kinser.