Where do wild animals live

Wildlife in Germany

Between joy, fear and competitiveness

With some large-scale species protection projects, conservationists have succeeded in bringing animal species such as eagle owls, bearded vultures, beavers and lynx back to their original home.

But there are also animals that come back on their own without humans having a hand in it. Birds like the black stork, the crane or the white-backed woodpecker will find everything they need for life with us.

All's well that ends well? Unfortunately not. Because with the animals there are also problems. The bigger and hungrier the wildlife, the greater our concerns. The returned wild animals enter a field of tension between joy, fear and competitiveness.

The environmental conditions in Germany have improved significantly compared to the past decades. Watercourses, once carefully straightened, are gradually being renatured. Biotopes are emerging, nature and species protection projects are booming.

Hunting is also regulated. The animals are no longer systematically decimated by human hands. The living conditions have therefore improved for many animal species, so that they can settle with us again after a long absence.

Unknown objects in flight

In the 1970s, the sight of a cormorant in Germany was a real sensation. Man had bitterly persecuted the cormorant and almost exterminated it. As a fish eater, it was considered a food competitor, just like the white-tailed eagle, the osprey or the kingfisher.

Only with the bird protection directive of the European Union (EU) of 1979 cormorants are no longer allowed to be hunted. Since the human stopped the intense persecution, the populations have slowly recovered.

The black bird likes to settle on large rivers and inland lakes. Here he can find enough food. There are now more than 20,000 breeding pairs in Germany - and again stress with humans. The old competitive thinking is flaring up: It's about the fish, as it was back then.

Especially with birds, more and more species are coming back to Germany on their own. They conquer a permanent habitat because they find enough space, peace and a good supply of food.

The black stork is gradually returning from Eastern Europe. In almost all federal states breeding pairs have settled again. The shy bird feels at home wherever there are quiet and natural forest areas.

The three-toed woodpecker and the white-backed woodpecker are also represented here again. They show that the violent storms that tear down entire forests have their good sides. The bark beetles, which are a favorite food of the woodpeckers, multiply in the dead wood.

For a long time, conservationists feared for cranes and sea eagles, which were acutely threatened with extinction. There are now some sea eagles in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Upper Lusatia. And the cranes are also conquering new territory again.

In Eastern and Northern Europe, their stocks have never been depleted as much as we are. The environment has also changed less significantly there. Now the cranes have multiplied so much that they are opening up new habitats in Germany.

New old home in the German forest

Some large wildlife are also returning. Wolf, bear, lynx and even the elk sometimes roam through German forests. In isolated cases, conservationists have been able to observe these animals since the 1990s. Walkers and hikers will hardly encounter the shy animals.

The lynx, for example, is making itself so rare that it is difficult to estimate its population in Germany. Some specimens live today in different regions of the Eifel, in the Bavarian Forest, in the Palatinate Forest, in the Black Forest and in the Harz National Park. Many of the animals come from reintroduction projects. But they also came to us of their own accord, presumably from the Czech Republic, Switzerland and France.

There are only a few wolves in Germany. But there is. The first wolf was sighted on German territory in the mid-1990s. He probably came from Poland. A short time later, the first two German wolf packs with 20 to 25 animals settled in Lusatia in East Saxony. In 2019, the population should have grown to 78 wolf packs in Germany.

The brown bear was once at home in our forests too. As a food competitor, it was hunted mercilessly - not only in Germany, but also in other European countries. In addition, large areas of forest disappeared due to clearing.

In countries like Romania, Sweden, Slovakia, Croatia or Bulgaria there are still bears living freely today. A few are also at home in Italy, Austria and Switzerland. Bear Bruno immigrated to Germany from northern Italy via Austria.

An imposing appearance

With a shoulder height of up to two meters, the elk is an imposing figure. Since the end of the war he had disappeared from the local forests. In the meantime, several moose have been seen in eastern Germany. They probably immigrated from Poland or the Baltic states.

In some areas they could settle back with us, conservationists are sure. Moose are good swimmers and like swampy, water-rich terrain, such as can be found in Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania or the Bavarian Forest.

Above all, these large wild animals also need large regions and areas with little traffic, in which they can move around easily and find sufficient water and protection. Only a few federal states offer such areas.

In addition, in many regions of Germany, the migratory movements of wild animals - and thus their spread - fail because of the many roads and highways that cut their habitat.