The 800 pound gorilla of invasive species in the United States is the feral or wild pig. In Europe other populations of invasive species are well established – and expanding their range. Plans to eradicate and eliminate the invaders are not yet proposed.
Feral pigs are the modern-day scourge of North America. At least if you believe authorities and self-appointed guardians of nature. They make it sound like this country is the only one invaded by a rogue species that do not belong here. But thrive nevertheless. Moreover, wild pigs are not the only invasive species around. Yet, since they have a tendency to dig up and re-arrange manicured golf courses, front lawns and agricultural fields, they tend to attract special and close attention. We have written about feral pigs on many occasions. Let us examine for a change other invasive species in other countries.
Europe has its share of invasive animals. Some of them were welcomed in the beginning because they make good hunting. Prominent among those are Canada Geese. Some navigationally challenged birds made it all the way to Europe. Ringed birds captured or killed established proof of their true origin. They liked the new environment and habitats. And multiplied. They did not see any reason to migrate back and forth between their original homes and European habitats.
In the early fifties there were 2,000 to 4,000 Canada Geese in England according to estimates by British wildlife experts. Their number swelled to over 80,000 birds. Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Poland, Finland, Sweden and other countries also have growing non-migrating populations of Canada Geese.
(Canada goose in flight, Wiki)
Some non-migratory Canada Geese escaped from European zoos. And it is also claimed that hunters helped the geese to establish breeding populations by moving captive birds to European environments.
It does not matter how the Canada Geese got to their new homes. They are there to stay. In ever greater numbers. Because of their ever-increasing populations they have now outlived their welcome. Geese are noisy large birds. And they produce equally large quantities of goose droppings. That enrages golfers when their golf balls land on a dung pile. Visitors of city parks do not like it either when the geese spread their droppings across popular picnic spots.
The consequences: Many municipalities and states declared the magnificent birds pests. They can now be hunted with very few restrictions.
Equally undesirable in the eyes of many is another destructive invasive species. This one comes from Egypt. The Nile Goose or Egyptian Goose originally lived in the Nile Valley and in sub-Saharan Africa. From south of the Sahara and the Nile Valley to frigid Europe seems to be a big jump. But the ancestors of the invasive Nile Geese in Germany, for example, escaped from zoos.
Egyptian Geese (Wiki)
The Egyptians domesticated these geese. They were kept for food. European zoos displayed them because of their gorgeous ornamental plumage. Escapees from zoos established small breeding populations in several European countries. Great Britain, the Netherlands, France and Germany have feral Egyptian Geese living the good life of an invasive species with virtually no natural enemies.. The goose was first introduced to Great Britain in the 18th century. They were declared ‘pests’ in 2009.
Egyptian Geese look heavier in flight than Canada Geese. They are highly territorial towards their own species defending their park territories in terrestrial and aerial combat.
Recently Germany also declared them pests exposing them to intensive hunting pressure.
Both goose species are heavy birds. Canada geese can have a wingspan of close to two yards. The largest wingspan ever measured on a Canada Goose was wider than two and a quarter yards.
One of the most destructive invasive species is a North American icon: The raccoon.
There are no native raccoons in Western Europe. They were brought to Europe and kept in zoos because of their cute looks and their ability to use their frontal extremities much like hands.
Nimble handed coons used their dexterous abilities to escape from zoos. Once free they became feral and established breeding populations. The very first raccoon were introduced in Germany in 1920. They were bred in captivity for their fur. Rumor has it that Herman Goering, one of the leading Nazi figures, ordered raccoon to be released for hunting.
Der Spiegel, one of the leading German news magazines, quotes the British tabloid The Sun:
“The fact that this isn’t historically accurate didn’t stop British tabloid newspaper The Sun from running an article in 2007 entitled “Nazi raccoons on warpath.” The article warned that they “are just across the Channel from Britain after marching through France, Belgium, Holland and Denmark in a furry blitzkrieg” and that they “are invading new territory — just like the Nazis did.”
From humble beginnings in 1920 and the first controlled release in 1934 in Prussia feral raccoons now number an estimated 1 million in Germany alone. Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, even Spain also host raccoons. Oh, and let us not forget the Russian raccoon. Sly raccoons find European urban environments much to their liking. Just as they do here in this country.
In the open countryside, raccoons are competing with native foxes. Because of their dextrous ‘hands’ and their intelligence they are beginning to oust native foxes from their niches in the ecosystem.
Raccoons are a game species in many states. Other German states have declared them a pest. More than 67, 000 raccoon were killed in Germany during the last season. That did not stop this invasive species from expanding their range. Their core territories are Hesse, Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt. But their reach goes far beyond that. Raccoons even crossed the Alps into Italy.
Hunters complain that they take a toll on the populations of pheasants, ducks and partridges. They steal eggs from European pond turtles. The greatest threat to humans comes from rabies raccoons can carry.
In general, reactions to these invasive species are mixed. While a majority admires the beauty of the exotic invaders and the cuddly looks of masked bandits, hunters and some authorities are only mildly concerned about the long-term effects of the invasive species on the environment.
On the other hand, operators of golf courses and manicured lawns in urban parks are up in arms demanding the eradication of these invasive species. The European Union recommends extermination as threads to biodiversity.
Can we expect helicopters used against feral Canadian and Egyptian Geese and raccoons?
No, I do not think so. Not yet.
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