Germany's raccoon population has skyrocketed from 20 to several hundred thousand since they were first introduced around 1934.
Invasive raccoons are proving to be quite a problem for the people of Germany, as they have developed a liking for German beer and now spend their time breaking into people’s homes and even killing their beloved pets.
As The Telegraph reported, Germany’s raccoon population has gotten out of control. The country’s National Hunting Association (DJV) has said it killed a record 200,000 raccoons in 2022 in an attempt to control the population.
Just two decades ago, the organization killed only 10,000 raccoons per year.
It should be noted that raccoons are not a native species in Germany. They were, in fact, introduced to the country during Nazi rule.
The problem, scientists said, is that the raccoon is an “unbelievably adaptable animal” — and hunting efforts have only seemingly made things worse, as the raccoons are reproducing faster than ever before.
The population has grown so out of control that local media called it a “plague.” Homeowners have reported raccoons entering their houses in the middle of the night and eating pet rabbits and fish — and reportedly drinking beer.
Berthold Langenhorst of the nature organization NABU said the “raccoons are funny and clever… and they like beer.” Langenhorst himself had seen raccoons along a lakeside knocking over beer bottles to drink the liquid inside.
In Berlin alone, the estimated number of invasive raccoons sits around 1,000. These pests have been found living in various locations, including high schools, buses, and gardens.
Despite their overwhelming presence, the Berlin senate refused to sanction killing the raccoons. Instead, they encouraged residents to lock their bins properly.
Hunters, of course, disagreed with this decision. They argued that the raccoons present “a real catastrophe for native wildlife.” According to NABU, raccoons hunt young lapwings and endangered red kites — two native bird species.
The DJV did offer one unique solution to the country’s raccoon problem: make raccoon meat part of the national diet, and use their fur for “high quality, eco-friendly clothes.”
So far, this proposal has not made it to the voting floor.
The issue of raccoons in Germany is hardly a new one, though. In the century since they were first introduced, they have proven to be a regular issue for the German people — though things have accelerated over the last 20 years.
“They look very smart, but I think they are very dangerous,” Nieste resident Marga Trautmann-Winter told the Los Angeles Times back in 2012. “And they are a problem for us.”
One major part of the problem in dealing with German raccoons is that they largely lack any natural predators overseas. In North America, they are often hunted by animals like cougars, bobcats, coyotes, and even domesticated dogs — and while Germans certainly have dogs in their homes, they lack the large cats that control the raccoon population here.
Berlin’s chief wildlife officer at the time, Derk Ehlert, dryly joked that the raccoons were “a present of the American people.”
Germany’s raccoon population was mostly isolated for a few decades, keeping to the forests. But by the 2000s, they were starting to make their way into cities, and residents began noticing their trash cans overturned come the morning.
This sight may be all too familiar to many Americans living in cities, but for the Germans, this was an entirely new issue.
“We’re getting 50 calls a day,” Ehlert said at the time. “I know of at least 500 raccoon families in the city. They are the most intelligent mammals in Europe. They’re very quick.”
Raccoons have also made their way into other European countries, but the vast majority still live in the borders of Germany — and the number has only continued to climb.
To exemplify just how quickly the raccoons have overtaken Germany, the population began with just about two dozen members of the species in the 1930s.
A common myth claimed that one of Hitler’s closest advisors, Hermann Göring, had personally ordered the release of imported raccoons into the forests of Germany to either foster biodiversity in the region or simply increase the number of game for German hunters.
Two pairs of raccoons from the U.S. were indeed released into the German wilds in 1934, but the decision was not Göring’s. And as the Second World War raged on, a bomb struck a farm near Berlin where around 20 raccoons were being raised for their pelts, allowing them to escape into the wild.
From those raccoons came Germany’s entire raccoon population, now numbering in the hundreds of thousands at least.
There is no clear-cut solution to Germany’s raccoon problem, though.
Although the raccoons may have increased the suffering of the German people, there’s no denying that for the raccoons themselves, their introduction to Germany has been nothing short of a success.
After learning about Germany’s raccoon problem, read about another futile fight against nature, the Great Emu War of 1932. Or, read about the mongoose in Hawaii — and how it’s ruining the local ecosystem.