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With great pleasure I want to thank Prof. Myron L. Pulier / New Jersey  / USA
who assisted to translate this page into English.

Raccoons in Germany.

Waschbär (racoon), ein guter Kletterer.The North American raccoon (Procyon lotor) spread across Central Europe after release into the wild in 1934. Length: 50-70 cm; tail: 20-25 cm; weight: up to 10 kg; fur bushy, brown and black and curly; habits: nocturnal, excellent swimmer, good climber, rubs its food with rolling movements of the front-paws on a base or in shallow water; diet: prefers sweet fruit, worms and insects; lifespan: 15 years; season of birth: January/February; litter size: 4.



Wilhelm Sittich Freiherr v.Berlepsch  (1881 - 1948)

forest superintendant for Vöhl / Edersee and ex officio head of district huntsmen, had served as military-attaché in Canada, where he became familiar with raccoons.

Raccoon fur had become fashionable in the 1920s and there were several breeding-farms for raccoons in Germany. On February 8, 1934 the poultry-breeder and local master of huntsmen R. Haag wrote to v.Berlepsch that he has 4 raccoons at his breeding-farm that he would like to bring to the superintendant for release into the forest to enrich the fauna. Following German law, v.Berlepsch wrote for permission to the Germany master of huntsmen Hermann Göring in Berlin. The authorization arrived on April 28, 1934 .  

Forest superintendant v.Berlepsch, however, could not wait for the arrival of the authorization because a female raccoon was pregnant. At 9 am on April 12, the forest superintendent’s chauffeur Wilhelm Krauskopf drove up to the Asel precinct with two crates, each holding a pair of raccoons. Chief lumberman Adam Rikus and forest ranger Wilhelm Behr unloaded the crates and opened them in the presence of forest superintendent v.Berlepsch and the district forester Treusicke, but the raccoons would not leave the crates. Next morning the crates were empty and the raccoon couples were on their way to founding Germany’s wild raccoon population.  

The planned observation of the animals was difficult and unsuccessful as they were secretive and nocturnal. After three months one animal was found to have drowned and the other three were never seen again.

With the breakdown of civil infrastructure in 1945 many more captive raccoons entered the forests from fur farms in Hessia, Rhineland-Palatinate, North Rhine-Westphalia, Hamburg, Bremen, Thuringia and the greater Berlin area.  

Alfons Heimbach, a 14-year-old boy of a forester family from Laasphe in the area of Wittgenstein, knew that raccoons are very secretive, so he was especially proud of being able, with a flashlight at night, to observe from the window of his boarding school dormitory a raccoon foraging at the trashcans. As no one would believe his word, he asked the forest superintendent's office for permission to catch raccoons with a non-injurious trap he had built. Shortly before receiving his high school diploma, he came in second in the country’s “Youth Search" competition with his work on raccoons. The future forester wrote his diploma thesis in forest science in Minden on raccoons, and later became forest superintendent in Attendorn. Whether the raccoon is damaging or useful is no issue for Heimbach: "The raccoons have settled down in Germany and are no longer to be imagined as anything but local fauna.”  

By 1979 the number of raccoons in Germany was an estimated 200,000. For ecological balance the raccoons have been hunted since 1973, although private catch is prohibited. Before that time raccoons were a protected species. Raccoons never attack, but are able to defend themselves very effectively even against experienced hunting-dogs by scratching and biting.  

As for whether raccoons damage the environment, investigations by the biologist Dr. Walburga Lutz showed that raccoons prefer forested and richly watered hilly regions. The animal is omnivorous and is a poor hunter, being too clumsy to stalk prey and having difficulty catching even young mice and ill frogs. Its diet is mainly vegetarian, including fruit — especially cherries — chestnuts and grain, supplemented with worms and insects. Occasionally, a raccoon may succeed in obtaining meat from sick or dead mice, frogs (under 10% of the diet) and small-birds (under 5%). Today, after many years of observation, no difference can be detected in the game-population between areas with or without raccoons.  

Since the raccoon has the habit of feeling its food with its long, soft fingers before consuming it, the American Algonquians named it "aracun" (scratch-hand). Because raccoons tend to do this in water the Germans gave it the name "Waschbär" (washing bear).



Waschbär (racoon)


Waschbär Trittsiegel. Waschbärspur Passgang Waschbärspur flüchtig.

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