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Furry Interloper: Berlin Hotel Unsure How to Deal with Raccoon Guest

A Berlin hotel is trying to figure out how to deal with an unusual guest -- a raccoon who has moved into its garage. According to German law, the hotel does not have the right to evict the furry trespasser.

Did someone say room service?
AP

Did someone say room service?

For North Americans, having a raccoon in your garage is hardly a big deal. In Germany, however -- where the animals are something of a rarity -- the same can't be said.

For the past few weeks, a raccoon has been causing a stir in Germany's capital Berlin after making its home in the garage of one of the city's landmark hotels, the 39-story Park Inn. The furry creature has been spotted scurrying around the hotel's garage and scavenging for food in the trash cans of a near-by Burger King fast food restaurant. Hotel staff have christened the little guest Alex, after the nickname for Alexanderplatz, the square where the hotel is located.

Over the last few weeks, the little animal has become a minor celebrity after Berlin's media got wind of the raccoon's unusual choice of home. The city's newspapers have been reporting about the latest sightings of Alex and the hotel's failed attempt to find it a new home.

Although welcoming their unusual guest, the hotel's management seems ambivalent about having a raccoon living in its garage. When the news first broke, the hotel's general manager Thomas Hattenberger told reporters they were proud the animal had chosen their hotel as its new home. However, at the same time he announced they were looking for a new home -- one more suitable for a raccoon -- for Alex. The hotel even offered to sponsor the animal, if a zoo or a private individual could be found to take Alex in.

But, after seeking the help of wildlife experts at Berlin's Senate Department for Urban Development, the hotel's management discovered it might not be allowed to evict Alex. According to German hunting law, a wild animal cannot be removed from private property -- even from one's own -- unless it presents a danger.

But the raccoon has not yet caused any trouble. "At the moment we are just waiting to see what will happen," hotel spokeswoman Catherina Cora told SPIEGEL ONLINE Monday. "The raccoon is not a danger to anyone and so far it has created no harm." She added that the hotel's only concern was that, because the animal was quite unusual, it might frighten a driver and cause an accident.

To check up on the raccoon's health, Derk Ehlert, expert for wild animals at Berlin's Senate Department for Urban Development, paid the animal a visit on Sunday night. Ehlert suspects Alex could have grown up at Berlin's most famous tourist attraction. He told newspaper Berliner Morgenpost that a raccoon family living at the Brandenburg Gate had been missing two young raccoons for a while.

Raccoons are native to North America, but have become more widespread in Europe since the beginning of the 20th century after escaping from fur farms. The Berlin raccoon population, which experts estimate to comprise around 100 or 120 family groups, derives from a farm in the town of Strausberg, 30 kilometers east of Berlin. Raccoons are believed to have escaped from the farm at the end of World War II and ended up settling in the German capital.

Although some of them, like Alex, have made their home in buildings -- such as a shopping center in the Berlin district of Spandau -- most have sought to live near rivers, canals and lakes.

maw

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© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2008
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Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH




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