A ‘plague’ of beer-swigging raccoons trashing people’s homes and eating their pets is causing ‘catastrophe’ in Germany.
Homeowners are being hit with repair bills of up to €10,000 (£8,600) after returning from their travels to find that the pesky creatures have severely damaged their kitchens.
A video posted on social media by the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, shows a raccoon trying to escape from a rescue worker’s net poking out from the window of a high rise building.
When it scuttles across the window ledge to avoid being caught, another net emerges on the other side.
The encounter took place at an office building used by MPs in central Berlin earlier this summer after the creature had climbed up several stories.
A video posted to social media by the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, shows the raccoon trying to escape a rescue worker’s net poking out from the window of a high rise. When it scuttles along the window ledge to avoid being caught, another net emerges on the other side from the other rescue worker
The German Embassy in London tweeted: ‘A surprise guest was spotted at the German Bundestag today, but the little raccoon (or Waschbär, as we say in German) couldn’t find its way out. With a little help from colleagues, the cute visitor was brought safely back to nature.’
As well as drinking beer, the animals have also been seen munching on fish and pet rabbits during their invasions.
Germany’s National Hunting Association (DJV) says it killed a record 200,000 raccoons in 2022 in a bid to curb the population, which had risen from less than 10,000 two decades ago.
Scientists say the population increase is almost exponential and that attempts to reduce it through hunting have actually increased the birth rate.
‘These animals, which are so cute at first sight, have become a plague in some parts of the country,’ the Frankfurter Allgemeine wrote this week.
‘But the problem can no longer be eradicated, so we have to learn to live with them. In less than a century this species has made Germany its home. That’s a story of both success and suffering.’
The animals have been linked to the Nazis due to the time period when they were introduced.
There is a popular belief that they were released in Germany on the personal orders of Hermann Goering, the founder of the Gestapo, in his role as head of the Reich’s Master of the Hunt, but this has been disputed by historians.
Raccoons were first released in Germany in the 1920s during a time when their fur was highly desirable.
In the video, the raccoon can be seen on the window ledge of the high rise building as the first net appears. It can then be seen poking around the corner as a second rescue worker attempts to capture it
An estimated 1,000 of the animals now live in Berlin, where they have been spotted residing in boarding buses and state high schools, as well as scavenging in the city’s allotment gardens.
Berlin’s senate in 2022 refused to sanction killing raccoons, noting that it would prefer to encourage residents to lock their bins properly, while hunters moaned that they posed ‘a real catastrophe for native wildlife’.
It comes as Belgium is fending off an invasion of raccoons, with at least 60,000 flooding Wallonia in the south and travelling to Flanders in the north.
The animals are native to North America, but began showing up in Belgium in the 1980s.
The country’s environment agency has issued raccoon warnings to try to prevent residents from feeding them.
Frederik Thoelen of Natuurhulpcentrum, a Belgian conservation and environmental protection charity, told The Times: ‘Ten years ago we occasionally received a report, but then it often concerned escaped animals from people who illegally kept a raccoon as a pet. But now we see a lot more sightings coming in, and those are raccoons that were born in the wild.’
‘You can shoot them, but nobody likes to do that. In Flanders we are now trying to limit the damage by catching them and then castrating or sterilising them,’ Thoelen said.
‘Because they can have such a negative impact on nature, as a country you have to do something about it. The raccoons must not be able to escape. Europe is very careful about allowing raccoons on [its] territory.’