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


Zoo preserves dead cub for school groups

A bear cub that was euthanized by Bern’s Dählhölzli Zoo in April is to be stuffed and displayed as part of the zoo’s educational offering.

Zoo preserves dead cub for school groups
Cub 4 was one of two born at the zoo in January. Photo: Rando/Dählhölzli Zoo

The cub, known as ‘4’, was put down by the zoo after its father, Misha, killed its sibling.

The two cubs were born to the zoo’s Russian brown bears Misha and Masha in January, and the first cub was killed 11 weeks later on 2 April.

The second cub was subsequently badly bullied by its father and neglected by mother Masha, leading the zoo to make the decision to euthanize it, just five days after the death of its sibling.

At the time, the zoo said in a statement: “Putting cub 4 to sleep was a difficult decision, but unfortunately necessary. As a zoo and therefore as animal keepers we are obligated to take action when an animal must suffer unnecessarily. This was clearly the case with 4.”

Separating the cub from its parents was not a viable option, according to the zoo.

On Tuesday taxidermist Sabrina Beutler began the process of preserving cub 4’s fur in an operation overseen by Bern’s National History Museum.

The fur will then be glued onto an artificial model of the cub’s body in a process that should be completed by the beginning of the autumn.

The cub is to be used by the zoo’s education department, which owns many other preserved skulls, skeletons and furs, in an effort to educate school groups and visitors about bears.

Speaking to The Local, zoo educator Doris Slezak said: “We want to teach children about bears and other animals and we will use the material for that. Of course with this bear people will ask questions and we will tell the story [of what happened] but it’s not the main focus.”

At the time of the cub’s death the zoo attracted much criticism for its actions from the public and animal rights group, including a legal complaint filed by a private individual.

Although Slezak is expecting some people to be upset by the zoo’s decision to preserve the dead cub, she told The Local that it’s important not to shy away from the situation.

“It’s part of the story, it’s part of the life of this little bear and it should not be hidden. It should be retold, if it’s possible.”

Slezak added: “Nature can be very cruel and that’s something we want to show kids. We think that it’s right that this bear still has a function after his death, and it will help people to understand nature.”

On 16 June the cub’s father, Misha, was sterilized to prevent further breeding.