More bears, wolves on the prowl in Switzerland

Wild animals including bears, wolves and jackals are on the increase in Switzerland, a government agency said Friday, as it reported a spike in the figures across the country.

More bears, wolves on the prowl in Switzerland
Photo: Andreas Krappweis

"The development is spectacular," said Reinhard Schnidrig, who heads the Federal Office for the Environment's department for hunting, wild animals and biodiversity.

"All species are growing in number in one way or another," he told the Le Temps daily.

"Bears are returning each year in summer" and wolves had "started to reproduce on Swiss soil", he said.

In addition, he said, the first golden jackal had made its way to Switzerland in recent weeks from the Balkans, while lynxes, wild cats and foxes were also prospering.

Even beavers were "testing the air" in Switzerland, he said.

Reports of wild animal sightings are common in Switzerland, where many carnivores are protected.

One of the reasons for the sudden increase in the numbers of wolves appeared to date back to the arrival of the first females in 2006, Schnidrig said.

Females were less likely to move on than more itinerant males, he explained.

"Bears share the same kind of behaviour," he said, adding that female bears had also been making their way to Swiss territory.

With the first wolf litters born in the country this year, "we have entered a new era. Wolves will only go on growing in number," Schnidrig said.

Growing forest cover and an abundance of prey such as deer were together facilitating the rise in wild carnivores in Switzerland, he added.

He cautioned however that while most wild animals represented no threat to people "bears are different" as they were "less predictable" than most other animals.

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Watch: Rare sighting of raccoon in downtown Zurich

A recent video showing one of the North American natives in Zurich has highlighted the arrival of an invasive species in Switzerland's largest city.

Watch: Rare sighting of raccoon in downtown Zurich
A still from the video. Image: Michael Hill

The footage shows a raccoon passing in front of Zurich’s Restaurant Opera in the city’s Seefeld district before scuttling down a street to the surprise of onlookers.

“I was walking behind the opera house when I saw the animal waddle behind a chair,” Michael Hill, who took the video, told The Local.

“Within a second, I realised it was a raccoon and I took out my phone and started walking towards it and filming. Then it ran off,” said the 41-year-old who is now based in Zurich but has previously spent time in the US, where he saw the animals.

“It was totally taken aback. It was so weird. I didn't even know there were raccoons in Zurich, and I had to go online afterwards to check,” he said.

It was a rare sighting of the animal in the city of Zurich but such occurrences are becoming more frequent.

“We are getting more and more reports from hunters about raccoons in the forest or in populated areas and we have to assume there are more in the city too,” Jürg Zinggeler from the canton of Zurich’s hunting and fishing authorities told the Tages Anzeiger newspaper.

Zinggeler said that a hunter had killed a raccoon in the city a month before the recent sighting in Seefeld. He said this was the correct procedure as the mammals, which originate from Northern America, are classified as an invasive species in Switzerland

Raccoons first arrived in Switzerland in the 1960s after being released into the wild in Germany in 1934. The German population has grown to around one million animals, and the animals are present in many German cities.

They can cause plenty of damage to homes when they nest or live in roofs.

The orange dots represent pre-2000 raccoon sighting and the orange dots post-2000 sightings. Image: CSCF/Swisstopo

The population has not grown rapidly in Switzerland for reasons that are not clear. But Zinggeler says it could be because the animal’s population in Germany was allowed to grow too large before attempts were made to stop the spread.

The mammals are not dangerous to humans unless they feel threatened. They will then defend themselves,Lukas Handschin from Zurich city authorities told the 20 Minuten news site.

Read also: Brown bear strolls across Swiss ski slope