Spotting Rare Wild Animals in Germany


Wolves Make a Comeback in Saxony Wolves roamed the whole of Europe for centuries. But intense hunting by livestock owners protecting their animals made wolves virtually extinct in western and central Europe by the end of the 19th century. It wasn't until the 1990s that wolves were sighted in Germany again. They had wandered in from Poland. In 2000, the first wolf cubs were born in the Lausitz region of Saxony, which now has its own wolf museum and organizes regular tours.

"Unfortunately you don't get to see wolves on the excursions," says Helene Möslinger of the Wolfsregion Lausitz office. But the trips offer interesting insights. "Visitors follow the tracks and the droppings and learn a lot about the wolf, his expulsion and return to the region."

Wildcats in the West If you walk through the woods and spot a cat, it could be a normal domestic feline -- but it could also be a wildcat. The greyish-brown animals are a little larger and more powerfully built than their domesticated relations and have a bushy tail with black rings. Wildcats are very shy, even if they have been hand-reared.

In Germany, wildcats live in central and southwest regions, such as the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. The region's wildlife conservation agency has published a brochure with local hiking trails through areas populated with wildcats. But as the the animals are rare and shy, direct encounters are very unlikely. In the spring, however, hikers sometimes spot kittens playing on the path. The mother is probably away hunting and will return soon, so the kittens must under no circumstances be disturbed. Lonely Lynx in Bavaria Like wolves and wildcats, the lynx is a very shy animal and it takes a lot of luck to spot one in the wild. "I have worked and lived in the national park for 36 years and I've only seen a wild lynx once," says Rainer Pöhlmann of the Bayerischer Wald national park. The last wild lynx in the Bayerische Wald forest region was shot in the mid-19th century, and the species didn't return until the latter half of the 20th century.

But it is nevertheless possible to see lynx in the park because several are kept in an open-air enclosure. "Visitors can hike through our nature park and then take a look at the animals in the enclosure," says Pöhlmann. Between four and six adult lynx can be seen roaming around the spacious 14,000-square-meter fenced-off area. "Lynx are loners and avoid each other. With enclosures that big, it works quite well," says Pöhlmann. But in the wild, their territories ae much bigger, in some cases bigger than the entire 240-square-kilometre nature park, he added.

Otters and Badgers in Lower Saxony In the Gut Sunder park in the northern state of Lower Saxony, wildlife experts have found a special way to permit the observation of rare animals. Visitors who don't spot one while hiking around the park can go to an animal film center which has livestream camera transmissions from 10 locations that are inaccessible to visitors. The cameras film animals such as otters, badgers, kingfishers and pine martens. And if the animals happen to be out of view of the cameras, highlights can be sampled in the film archives.

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