For the first time, hunters in Germany shot more than 100,000 nutrias in one hunting season. This is the result of figures from the German Hunting Association (DJV) on invasive, i.e. non-native wild animal species, which are available to the German Press Agency. According to this, a total of 101,108 coypu were killed in the last hunting season from April 2020 to March 2021 - according to the association, that is 57 times more animals than 20 years ago. The hunting route is an indication that the rodent, originally from South America, has increased significantly in recent years, said DJV spokesman Torsten Reinwald. The hunters cite milder winters due to climate change and animal feeding as reasons.

According to DJV information with reference to the wildlife information system of the federal states of Germany (WILD), nutrias are now found everywhere in the Federal Republic - but especially in north-western Germany on the Ems, Weser, Elbe and Rhine.

More than 70 percent of all animals were killed in Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia, followed by Saxony-Anhalt with a share of 11 percent.

In most federal states, coypu are included in the hunting law.

Coypu, which look similar to beavers, originally come from South America and, according to the DJV, were kept on farms in Germany for their meat and fur from the 1880s.

Escaped animals established their own populations and populated rivers, lakes and ponds.

Expansion creates new challenges

The German Hunting Association sees the spread of the animals with concern.

"This is a real challenge for dike protection and species protection," said Reinwald.

The meter-long cave systems of the animals are a danger for the stability of dikes and dams.

In addition, the herbivores destroyed large areas of reed belts, leaving other species, such as certain birds, with a lack of habitat.

The DJV participates in a nutria research project in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

Among other things, live traps are to be tested with special animal recognition software, which is said to be able to distinguish beavers from coypu.

In the case of other invasive species such as the raccoon and the raccoon dog, the hunting distance fell slightly compared to the same period last year, but over the years there has also been a clear increase in these. The numbers are now stagnating at a high level, said Reinwald.

Hunters believe that the raccoon, which originally comes from North America, has great potential for spreading.

According to the DJV, the hunting distance has increased more than 22-fold from 2000/2001 to 2020/2021 - to 200,163 animals most recently.

In the case of the raccoon dog originally from China, 33,010 animals were killed recently - this corresponds to an increase by a factor of five over the same period.

In the meantime, the number of raccoon dogs, which are mainly found in northern Germany, had collapsed due to pathogens such as mange and dust.

In the meantime, however, the number of animals killed has risen significantly again, it said.