Which animals are hunted the most?

Not just wolf and lynx: these wild animals have returned to Germany

In recent years, various predatory species have resettled in this country that were long considered extinct in Germany. Encounters with people are also inevitable.

By far the most common encounters between humans and wolves. Even lynx are at home again in some parts of the Federal Republic. Who else got lost across the border?

People believed dead live longer

Predators were once widespread in Germany - but they had little to oppose humans. Because they repeatedly sought out farm animals as prey, numerous species were mercilessly hunted and subsequently exterminated.

However, some of them have now returned. Wolf and lynx in particular are at home again in some parts of Germany. You benefit from the strict legal species protection regulations. However, their presence is not without consequences.

“Large predators influence their environment,” says Carsten Nowak, head of the nature conservation genetics department at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Gelnhausen. “They can contribute to the regulation of prey populations, which in turn can have an impact on vegetation and thus on ecosystem functions.” In addition, there are potential conflicts with humans.

For example, wolves repeatedly kill farm animals such as sheep or goats. Some people are also afraid of the moderately shy predators. So it's no wonder that the return of predators to Germany sparked heated debates between conservationists, hunters and livestock owners.

An overview of which wild animals appear sporadically - or are already at home again.

Moose

They are not predators, but if they suddenly run into the road and collide with cars, even large ungulates can be dangerous to humans. This applies, for example, to moose, which experts believe have a good chance of settling in Germany permanently in the coming years.

The large deer, which weigh up to 800 kilograms, had died out in Germany since the Second World War at the latest. Today, individual animals repeatedly cross the borders to Poland, Sweden or the Baltic States. They appear regularly in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Brandenburg in particular and occasionally cause traffic accidents.

Bison

In North Rhine-Westphalia there was a collision between a car and a bison at the end of 2017. A herd of massive bison has been living in the wild in the Rothaar Mountains since 2013 - a result of targeted reintroduction.

Martens and raccoons

Humans also unintentionally prepare the way for various invasive species: "Raccoon dogs and raccoons, for example, have continued to spread in Germany over the past few decades," says Senckenberg researcher Nowak.

wolf

Since the first couple crossed the German-Polish border almost 20 years ago, the wolf has been spreading steadily in Germany. At the end of 2017, 60 packs were scientifically proven in this country, the vast majority of them in Brandenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Lower Saxony.

The largest species from the canine family (Canidae) has relatively low demands on habitat and food and is also very adaptable. It is therefore not surprising that individual animals regularly penetrate more densely populated areas or even cities on their forays.

In the process, humans and wolves always come together - which, however, is rare and, from the point of view of experts, usually classified as uncritical.

In Lower Saxony, the number of officially confirmed close encounters - which are defined as sightings from a distance of less than 30 meters - has recently declined: in 2016 there were 26 such encounters, in 2017 only twelve. "Up to now there has not been a single attack by a wolf living in the wild on humans", says Bettina Dörr from the Wolf Office of the Lower Saxony State Agency for Water Management, Coastal Protection and Nature Conservation (NLWKN) in Hanover.

The situation is different with attacks on farm animals: if wolves ripped 16 farm animals in Lower Saxony in 2013, four years later there were 144. Farmers and shepherds are therefore not very happy about the return of the wolf.

The German Hunting Association (DJV) also calls for uniform wolf management throughout Germany within the framework of the Federal Hunting Act - among other things, so that individual animals that repeatedly come too close to human settlements can be legally killed.

lynx

The German low mountain ranges offer the shy wildcat with the brush ears optimal conditions for spreading: Here they find quiet retreats for rearing young and enough deer and other mammals to feed. There are proven lynx populations in the Bavarian Forest, the Harz and the Palatinate Forest, among others.

Their presence is the result of targeted resettlement attempts by nature conservationists - the animals would not have been able to establish themselves in this country on their own. "The return of the lynx is of little importance for humans, as it rarely kills livestock and does not pose a direct threat to us," says wildlife researcher Nowak. In general, the wildcat is therefore seen as a welcome asset.

bear

Bruno, the first brown bear to appear in Germany more than 170 years after its conspecifics became extinct, became a media star in 2006. His ravenous appetite for sheep earned him the nickname “problem bear” - and ultimately became his undoing: Bruno was shot.

It is possible that one or two brown bears will follow him across the southern and southeastern borders in the future - there are stable populations in Italy, Austria and Slovenia that enjoy good living conditions thanks to extensive protective measures.

However, experts doubt that the short flying visits will lead to sustainable resettlement: "A permanent return of the brown bear to the German Alpine region is viewed as very unlikely in the next few years," says Carsten Nowak.