Nature Field Note

Title: Pigs (Almost) in the City: Wild Pigs in Berlin and Brandenburg

Abstract:

84 million people reside in Germany, which is roughly the same size as Montana. With a very high population density, you may wonder how wildlife can thrive. How do you think population density can affect nature?

As a matter of fact, wild pigs thrive around the cities and suburbs of Berlin, but that can cause trouble for the people and for the animals. Here’s a look at how this animal lives in Berlin and Brandenburg.

Introduction:

As a city-dweller, I don’t have the opportunity to see many of Germany’s animals. I usually only see pigeons and house pets. Therefore, I traveled to an Animal Sanctuary in Lehnitz, Brandenburg to get a glimpse of the area’s wild creatures. The Animal Sanctuary is located just two train stations north of my school in Birkenwerder. Lehnitz has neighborhoods full of single-family homes that run along stone streets. It’s nestled within a woodland next to the Havel River.  The Animal Sanctuary is found right at the riverbank of the Havel. The sanctuary houses dogs, cats and other house pets that are disabled or injured and in need of special, long-term care. They also take animals that have been found in the wild that have been injured or become ill in some way.

A very tame res squirrel that was rescued!

I met some animals that have their own stories about how they ended up at the sanctuary, and what their futures hold. The first was a badger (Dachs, in German) who had been found poisoned. He will be released into the wild as soon as he gets well again. The second was a red squirrel (Eichhörnchen) that had been brought to the sanctuary as a baby. His mother was killed, and he would have died otherwise. He will also be released into the wild after he learns to fend for himself.

The third was a wild pig (Wildschwein).  This pig was brought into the sanctuary as a baby. I had heard a lot about wild pigs and wanted to learn more from the workers at the sanctuary. Wild pigs are especially common in the area, and they can become domesticated if they are raised with humans. The one I met can never go back to the wild, and will continue to live at the sanctuary as a house pet. However, there are many of wild pigs that coexist with humans in the area, but are still wild animals.

What does this creature look like?

This wild pig was neither wild nor camera shy!
Typical wild pig appearance

Wild pigs are born with a light and dark brown striped patterned coat of fur all over their bodies. As they get older, it  grows into a yellowish-brown wiry coat. The pig I met was  not fully grown, but  I’m not sure how it could get much bigger! He was huge! The other features of wild pigs are quite similar to pigs you may imagine, except for the shape of the snout. A wild pig’s snout is a pit longer and more pointy than snouts of  pigs you see on farms.

How did I feel when I saw it?

Although I knew the pig had been raised in captivity, I was surprised that he was so tame and friendly. I never thought one could raise a wild animal and have it act like a house pet. Of course, I learned from the sanctuary that one should never do this unless they have the proper knowledge, since these animals get really large and require a lot of work and attention.

Where does it live?

The wild pigs that can be found near my home live in the forests and suburbs around Berlin and Brandenburg. There have been problems with them wandering closer and closer to the center of Berlin and using people’s yards as a place to stay. Wild pigs can be found in several other states in Germany. I remember when I lived in Freiburg, in the south-west corner of Germany, we were told to watch out for them while hiking. Although typically shy around humans, it is possible to cross paths with them while out on a trail in the woods.

By contrast, here is a domestic pig

The forests offer cover from hunters and allow the animals to escape from humans if needed. Wild pigs like to dig into the soil in small clearings in the forest, tearing up the ground. When one goes walking in the woods around the suburbs of Berlin, it is easy to see where the wild pigs have been.

What can harm this creature? Are we worried about it?

I have heard from friends here in Berlin that wild pigs are very common and can be harmed by close contact with humans. They are also hunted for their meat and for sport. They can become aggressive if they have babies and encounter a human. They want to protect their young, of course!

I’ve walked a lot through the forests of Woltersdorf (west of Berlin) with my friend’s dog. When I did so, I was warned to leash him up every time I heard a rustling sound nearby. They can be especially aggressive towards dogs, so that can lead to trouble for both the human, thepig and the dog! At the sanctuary, they hope that humans will be smart and keep their distance if possible. They also say that if the pigs get too close to peoples’ homes, they should get help from officials rather than shooting them or harming them in any way.

Overall, it was interesting to visit some wild animals in Germany. I learned that even though their space may be more limited than in the U.S. because of such a high population density, these wild animals can still manage to live throughout the country!

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