City animals in Zurich

In General

Wild animals do not only live in the wilderness. They could also be sighted in public zoos, animal- and wildlife parks. More and more wild animals are also kept as pets at home.  

The following wild animals may be hunted in the city of Zurich: 

  • Pachyderm (Dickhäuter): all wild animals that move on hooves (Huftiere) (roe deer, stag, ibex, chamois, wild boar)  
  • Lagomorphs (European hare) (Europäischer Hase)
  • Rodents (Nagetiere) (marmots, squirrels, beavers) 
  • Birds (chicken birds, geese, birds of prey (Greifvögel), owls, passerine birds (Sperlingsvogel)) 
Frog sitting on a stony ground
Frog [1]

People and animals do not always have a good relationship with each other. The following conflicts often occur:   

  • Some wild animals cause damage, mostly during food acquisition (e.g. rats, mice, etc.). Wild animals are therefore often not tolerated but scared away or killed.
  • Also, traffic accidents with wild animals running onto the street are often the case.
  • Some animals transmit diseases (fox tapeworm, rabies, malaria).

Human interaction with wild animals is regulated by various legal decrees. According to the law, all vertebrates (Wirbeltiere) are considered as wild animals. In addition to the principal of a law article, the general provision of the animal protection legislation as well as some special provisions must be observed when dealing with wild animals.

Interview with Mr. Nagel

Ueli Nagel, Biologist, retired university lecturer
Ueli Nagel, Biologist [2] 

1. Which animals are most common in the city of Zurich?
The most common animals that can be seen in the city are the pigeons. They originally came to the city from the Alps.
Foxes are also often seen in the city. Badgers and wild boars are also coming to the city more often. Beavers were often seen in the Limmat river, but then they disappeared. Now they are slowly coming back to the city. A lynx and a wolf have been sighted only once in the city so far.

fox on the way in the City
Fox [1] 

2. Why do the wild animals flee to the city?
Mr. Nagel said that flee is the wrong word. It is rather that the animals expand their habitat. As cities get bigger and bigger, more wild animals are coming into the cities to live there. The food supply in cities is enormous for them. Other animals also find their new habitat there and they adapt to the new environment. For example, pigeons’ build their nests in niches of buildings to raise their offspring there.

3. What are the consequences for the animals?
If the pigeons continue to multiply so rapidly, soon there will be no more niche places for all pigeons. When originally wild animals get used to a new environment, their behavior changes but also their appearance. A perfect example of this is the dog. Dogs are descended from the wolves; with the time they have changed externally and as well as their disposition. If you feed the wild animals or even let them into your house, they get too used to people and they quickly turn into pets. Other animals shift their activity time to the night so that they do not have to meet people. So, day active animals become night active animals.

 4. What are the consequences for the humans?
If animals increase their presence in the city, it can have consequences for the people living there. Mr. Nagel said that humans as well as animals are dependent on nature. The animals also have the right to live in the city, if they feel comfortable there. However, it can happen that some people are frightened when wild animals suddenly appear in their garden. Some people also feed the animals, which is basically bad for them. Some animals can also transmit serious diseases. An example of this is the fox. If he pees on berries. And the berries are eaten without washing them, you can be infected with the fox tapeworm (Fuchsbandwurm).

5. What are the consequences for the environment?
Consequences for the environment can be that the flora and fauna change in distribution. Because of urbanization, certain plants or animals may no longer exist in an environment.

6. Did the Corona pandemic had an impact on wildlife behavior?
Although no new species were sighted in Zurich during the Corona pandemic, it can be said that the pandemic had an impact. For example, dolphins returned to Italian ports and swans were seen again in Venice. In Zurich, however, many animals were active again during the day. 

7. What is your personal experience with wildlife in the city?
Mr. Nagel himself has seen squirrels, beavers, a badger and a deer in the city of Zurich.

[1] Squirrel
Squirrel [1] 

8. What is your personal opinion about wildlife in the city?
For Mr. Nagel, it is important that people realize that the city is also an important habitat for animals. The living conditions of the animals should always be respected. People should also know that animals are a part of nature, just like people, they should respect animals and take care of them. However, no one should try to make them pets.

9. What is your opinion about the following statements?

a) Wild animals should not live in the city, only in the forest and fields.
Mr. Nagel cannot agree with this opinion.

b) Wild animals in the city should be fed by people.
As he said the animals should not be fed.

c) People have a moral obligation to give wildlife a home even in the city.
For him, that’s an attitude thing. We should always be aware that everyone is a part of nature. So, people should not see themselves as rulers but rather as equals.

d) Humans should create spaces for animals even in densely populated areas that humans do not enter to promote better coexistence.
We should always be dutiful to nature. Not only in the cities but all over the world, because we have only one earth to live on and therefore, we should protect it. But it would be worthwhile to think about it for smaller habitats.

e) Problematic wildlife in urban areas should be allowed to be shot by hunters.
In principle, Mr. Nagel agrees with this statement. In the city of Zurich, it is the gamekeepers (Wildhüter) who take on this task. This is mainly the case when an animal is obviously suffering, i.e. when it is seriously ill or has been hit by a car but had survived only seriously injured.

Our Survey

Summary of survey results

Here is our conclusion of our survey. Fifty percent of the people who participated in the survey were aware of wild animals in the city. The animals we’re most aware of are: Squirrels, hedgehogs, rats and foxes. For the question “What wildlife would you be afraid of if you saw it in the city?” the most selected answers were: Wild boar (Wildschwein) or wolf. Many participants are afraid of accidents with wild animals but also that they could transfer diseases. They also think that rats are the animals which are most probable to transfer those diseases. Most participants agree with the mentioned opinion one.

Experience

Before we researched this topic, we had no experience about it. We have only seen a fox once in the city of Zurich.
Through this project, we learned a lot. For example, we thought that the animals are only in the city because we humans constrict their habitat. However, they come to the cities because the food supply is very large.
We thought that the animals are hunted in the city because they are unwanted. But the gamekeepers only have to rescue them if they are injured and suffering.

Authors

Sandra, Joelle and Anabel

Sources

Text:
Tiere im Recht  (tierimrecht.org)
Wildtier – Wikipedia (wikipedia.org)
Unsere Wildtiere | Jagd Zürich (jagdzuerich.ch)

Pictures:
[1] Stadt Wildtiere (zuerich.stadtwildtiere.ch)
[2] Ueli Nagel (gruenezuerich.ch)
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Nagel for the interview and the permission to use his images.

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3 thoughts on “City animals in Zurich

  1. Your post was very interesting. I got an informative input about “City animals in Zurich” out of the interview. You have also chosen the pictures appropriately. Moreover, your survey was also interesting to see how people feel about the topic and what they know about it. On the whole you did it very well and the topic is an eye catcher! 🙂

  2. This is a really interesting topic. The pictures are great and the survey is very extensive. The interview is also a good medium to deliver the information. Good work!

    Greetings
    Dario & Justin

  3. Very interesting Post. The photos you used really tie the project together. The interview includes fascinating aspects about your topic. Well done.

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