Although the moose is just a “New World deer”, it has special standing in our park! Because it’s not just the largest deer species in Europe, it’s the ambassador and mascot of the Hochwildpark Rheinland. In the wild, the Eurasian elk is predominantly found in Northern and Eastern Europe. Its preferred habitat is extensive forests and moorlands. Because moose are diurnal, they are easy to observe in our park despite having their own enclosure. As “concentrate selectors”, moose are picky feeders and prefer fresh cuttings, orchard and willow trees in considerable quantities. Because of this, we supplement their diet throughout the year. In 2016, we celebrated a first for our young moose pair: The bouncing bull moose calf “Odin” was born in July, and he’s now exploring his new territory under the watchful eye of his mother.
FALLOW AND SIKA DEER
Some of the first creatures you’ll encounter in the Hochwildpark Rheinland are the fallow and sika deer along with their does and calves. These native deer species love our extensive meadows for leisurely grazing and naturally avoid the dense forests. The animals are normally rather timid and sense potential danger very early on. The fallow deer, for instance, can already smell a human at a distance of 400 metres. One of the features that makes our wildlife park special is that the animals are accustomed to people. Because of this, they don’t immediately take flight but allow themselves to be observed from a relatively close proximity and even be fed by visitors.
As the “King of the Forest” and the largest of the true deer native to Central Europe, the red deer occupies a prominent place in the Hochwildpark Rheinland too. Because you can walk right through the enclosures in our park and in between the animals, you can experience the red deer in all their splendour. Despite being close by, you still have to keep your eyes peeled as their reddish-brown fur means that the deer are perfectly camouflaged in the woods. Something you can’t overhear, however, are their loud calls – the bellowing of the stags. If you visit us between September and October, it’s quite likely that you’ll witness their mating behaviour during rut; a really impressive event that you can experience up close during one of our night tours too.
The Hochwildpark Rheinland wouldn’t be complete without wild boars, of course. Because although they are relatively widespread in native deciduous and mixed woodlands, you don’t get to see them that often in the wild. This is due on the one hand to the fact that wild boars are primarily nocturnal, and on the other, that they aren’t used to people. Because our animals have been living with us for many years, they have, to a certain extent, lost their natural timidity with respect to humans – especially when there’s something to eat on offer! From our observation platform, you can feed the animals with food from the food dispensers provided. The viewing platform also gives you the chance to observe the distinctive social behaviour of the animals from a safe distance.
Something else to note about the wild boar enclosure: Dogs are forbidden in this section of the park. As welcome as dogs generally are in the park, the risk of provoking attacks or serious confrontations is too great in the wild boar enclosure.
Ibex have to make do with the meagre food available in the high mountainous regions. It’s for this reason that they’re ruminants. This means that they regurgitate their food from their stomach and chew it again several times. In this way, they’re able to extract sufficient energy from their sparse food resources. The animals spend the summers at higher elevations and the winters lower down. The horns of female ibex are only around 35 centimetres in size, whereas those of the males can grow to be up to a metre in length and weigh up to 30 kilograms.
An ibex herd consists of up to 20 females and their young. The juvenile males form bachelor herds and the old males live solitary lives. During the mating season (December/January), the bucks seek out herds of females. This often results in violent battles between the bucks. At the start of the 19th century, ibex were in danger of extinction in the Alps. They were hunted, as many parts of their bodies (e.g. blood, hair) were thought to have special medicinal powers.
The roe deer is one of the New World deer, and as such is more closely related to the moose than to the red deer native to Germany. It’s also classified as a concentrate selecting ruminant that eats easily digestible foods. It has around 13 grazing sessions each day. This means that each time it ingests food, it subsequently chews the cud.
Deer are synanthropes and adapt well to change. They can be found both in forests far away from civilisation and in fields directly next to human settlements. The roe deer is common throughout Europe. The mating season (rut) takes place in July/August. Because the egg remains dormant until around December, the fertilised egg only starts developing from December thus allowing the kids to be born in May/June. Twins are not uncommon, and triplets are also born from time to time. The roe deer is a loner and highly territorial. In winter, field roe deer in particular come together to form herds. They stay together until the springtime before separating again. If there are too many roe deer in a particular habitat, the mutual competition is too great and the deer often lose weight as a result.
DOMESTIC AND FARM ANIMALS
Besides game animals, our park is also home to various traditional farm animals too. Goats, sheep, minipigs, Hungarian Grey cattle, quails and chickens were originally kept for their wool, milk and meat, and not for hunting.
WATERFOWL AND FISH
Although the focus in the wildlife park is primarily on the four-legged forest dwellers, the varied terrain provides ideal habitats for wild birds, fish and other small animals, such as amphibians, too. The extensive pond landscape is an especially pleasant environment for our visitors to take a quick rest. And a relaxing opportunity to discover and observe the many animals living there. From mallards and wild geese to cormorants, storks and grey herons, a large number of different bird species reside here depending on the time of year and day. Always present and easily visible beneath the surface of the water when the sun is shining are the mighty carp, which can grow to be up to a metre in length.