Raccoons in Germany Have Started to Steal Beer

Credit: Ward Clark

Where I grew up in northeast Iowa, raccoons were as common as they were troublesome. My mother was of the firm opinion that if humans ever disappeared, raccoons would take over the Earth. With their quick wits, irrepressible curiosity, and nimble little front paws that are almost hands, raccoons as inheritors of the planet is a plausible idea. In our rural Allamakee County (Iowa) home, dealing with these masked critters was a constant challenge. They could defeat hasps on bird-seed storage containers, were masters at raiding feeders, and my father actually had to padlock the big freezer out in his garage/machine shed.


They don't come as far north as our current Great Land lodgings, which makes me wistful and relieved, all at the same time.

So, it's no surprise that, in Germany, they are stealing beer.

Some Germans refer to them as waschbären — washing bears — because of their habit of dunking their food before they eat it, while other Germans just call them straight-up annoyances. Especially when beer is involved.

According to The Telegraph, vacationers and locals alike are getting home and discovering that raccoons have raided their kitchens, causing thousands of dollars worth of damage in the process, including killing household pets and stealing any beer they can find. On less frustrating occasions, the raccoons have been seen at city parks, knocking over discarded beer bottles so they could drink whatever booze was left inside. “Raccoons are funny and clever … and they like beer,” Berthold Langenhorst of the German Nature Conservation Association (NABU), said.

Now, it's in the nature of raccoons to forage... creatively. And having lived and worked in Germany, I will say that if you're going to drink beer, Germany is one of the best places in the world to do so. And it has, apparently, been going on for a while now.


These 2023 beer-swilling raccoons aren’t the first time that the little critters have been spotted having a drink. In 2019, a visibly drunk raccoon was seen stumbling around the Christmas markets in the city of Erfurt. The animal overserved himself by drinking whatever mulled wine that was left in mostly empty cups, briefly entertained himself with a woman’s shoes, and then passed out on a doorstep.

A spokesperson for the Erfurt police department told a German news outlet that the raccoon was “obviously intoxicated” before adding that “a breathalyzer test on the animal was not carried out.”

Raccoons aren't native to Germany. They are a North American species but have been introduced into Europe and Japan, where they immediately started causing all manner of problems. In Japan, they are slowly forcing the native tanuki out of their traditional range, in addition to the damage they do to properties and crops. Here in the States where they are native animals, they still manage to cause plenty of mischief, but more troublesome is the fact that they are a serious rabies vector.

One of the reasons raccoons do so well is that their adaptable nature helps them live close to humans with great success. Some animals find humans troubling; we cut their forests, encroach on their habitats, and interfere with their migrations.  But plenty of other animals do very well around humans, not only the aforementioned raccoons but also pigeons, white-tailed deer, black bears, coyotes, squirrels, and many more. 


Sure, raccoons can be pests -- especially when they are stealing your beer -- but at least they're interesting pests. Of course, there's always more than one way to deal with them.


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