Many people discover the forest for themselves during the Corona pandemic. Most walkers are on the hiking trails, but some also walk off the trails. Some forest animals suffer as a result.
Walkers, hikers, cyclists and joggers: during the lockdown, many people seek recreation in the forests in Bonn and the region. Peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of the city and alternative workout options to the closed gyms are best found in the forest. Because by no means all visitors stay on the trails, forest animals are flushed out in their retreats.
Especially animals that are sensitive to disturbance, such as fallow deer or red deer, could be massively disturbed as a result, says Uwe Schölmerich from the Rhine-Sieg-Erft Regional Forestry Office. "The animals are currently running on the back burner. They look for something to eat now and then, but otherwise need peace and quiet," explains Schölmerich. As a rule, they do not feel disturbed by walkers. However, as more and more people are currently walking along trails and in remote places in the Kottenforest, for example, they are becoming a danger to the animals.
Game cameras show changed behaviour of the animals
Lutz Schorn from the Bonn hunters' association finds even more drastic words: "On weekends, you sometimes think you're on Hohe Straße in Cologne in the Kottenforst." He, too, does not actually see the increased number of walkers as a problem - but since they deliberately wanted to avoid each other, especially in Corona times, many walkers chose paths right through the game areas. Horse trails, logged areas, unpaved forestry roads are all not intended for pedestrians, he said. Recordings from game cameras, which document the behaviour of the animals, had shown: Roe deer, which is normally also searching for food during day light hours, now dares to venture out only in the dark by now. Deer, unlike the larger fallow deer and red deer, however, need food around six times a day. This eating rhythm is currently difficult for the animals to maintain. Thus their nutrient supply is endangered and their physical constitution suffers.
But not only walkers and hikers are currently more frequently encountered in the forest, mountain bikers are also regularly on the move in the forests in Bonn and the region. However, the fact that so-called "freeriders" do not always ride on the marked trails is not a new problem. "They're looking for adventure in the forest," says Schorn, "and not just since Corona." The fact that animals are massively disturbed in the process is self-explanatory.
The "living room“ of the animals
"You should always realise in the forest that you're out and about in the living room of wild animals," says Schorn. Permanent stress caused by loud, inconsiderate "visitors" is something he would like to spare the animals. Dogs should also remain leashed and on forest trails to avoid startling wildlife. "Walkers should behave like walkers," Uwe Schölmerich from the Regional Forestry Office also sums up. And those who keep quiet also have a better chance of catching a glimpse of a deer, stag or hare.
Original text: Vanessa Rheinschmidt and Johanna Lübke
Translation: Mareike Graepel