Beijing

Wild animals of Beijing

Some recent encounters with real wildlife in and around Beijing:

1. Hog Badger

hog badger.jpg
Hog badger in Thailand

Yesterday, on a path in a forest in the mountains north of Miyun during a hail storm, your correspondent encountered a beast that ran like a dog but had a snout like a pig. The beast and I both stopped, shocked, then it ran off into the undergrowth.

It seems that the beast was a hog badger. According to Internet sources (Badgerinfo and Badger Pages), the species is found throughout much of south east Asia and China. Not much is known about the hog badger, but its survival is threatened by deforestation and hunting.

From Steve Jackson's Badger Pages (also source of image reproduced here):

Names
The hog badger is also known as the hog-nosed badger, the bear-pig and the sand badger. The Italian ... is tasso naso di porco, and the German is Schweinsdachs. In China, the hog badger is called Zhu-huan [猪獾] ... while in Indonesia it is known as pulusan or babi batang....

Social organisation
Hog badgers are said to be playful animals, the young especially so. However, I have found no information regarding social organisation or territoriality. An account of the status of the hog badger in India states that most sightings of the species are of single animals [b130-02], suggesting that the species is solitary...

...Food and feeding behaviour
The hog badger is omnivorous, and roots in the ground rather like a pig to find its food. The following food items are eaten:
* Earthworms
* Other ground-living invertebrates
* Roots and tubers
* Fruits

2. Huang Shulang

11457072753762280.jpg
Image from Baidu Baike
This animal lives in hutongs in central Beijing, and has been spotted several times in the last few months by your correspondent in Dongcheng District. In Chinese it's called huang shu lang (黄鼠狼) colloquially, or huang you (黄鼬). It seems to be the Yellow Weasel (Mustela sibirica).

Baidu's Baike encyclopedia says that the weasel does not have a good reputation because of a proverb about weasels who 'steal chickens under the guise of wishing a family happy new year'. However, according to a few Dongcheng residents, it is lucky to see a weasel.

If any Danwei readers have more information about hog badgers or about folk customs associated with the huang shulang please leave them in the comments or email jeremy at danwei.org.

UPDATE:
• Random hutong ayi view: Hitting a huang shulang is bad luck ('你打它,就倒霉了')
• There is lots more information about these wild beasts in the comments sections below. Thanks to all of the commenters.

There are currently 38 Comments for Wild animals of Beijing.

Comments on Wild animals of Beijing

yes, I have spotted the "huangshulang" in our apartment garden in China World while walking the dog at night. Suspect that it's a pine marten since it's quite big.

weasel in the garden

I've seen several time one huang shulang in my courtyard, near Guozijian, every time at night.

I love huangshulang - it always makes me happy to see one. There's a bunch of them where I live in the northwest of Beijing, though they generally try to stay out of the way. I've never seen a picture of one that remotely does them justice - they're beautiful animals with a tiny cat-like face and uncurled squirrel-like tail.

All the local cats find them fascinating and trot after them to investigate, while the huangshulang patters off, wanting to avoid trouble. I've been told that my cats have spent hours, dead still, crouched either side of a huangshulang hole - waiting and waiting for the strange creature that surely must come out eventually.

Very occasionally, I'll hear a blood curdling scream and assume that a cat, hopefully not my own, his misguidedly corned a huangshulang and is being warned in no uncertain terms that the consequences of an attack could be very, very serious. Or maybe I'm wrong and it's two huangshulang establishing which of them is the boss.

They're pretty good climbers - they can get up a tree in no time at all.

I wish I could add to the folk sayings about huangshulang, but I can't. People I asked said exactly the same about chickens and new year. One addition to the wild animals, though - we've got hedgehogs too, but you don't see them very often.

My wife says when her father was young he used to often catch those hog badgers and eat them. She hears they are very good to eat.

That thing is scarier than an '08 Fuwa. Thankfully it didn't make the Zodiac.

@ cat: I love your rendering huangluang life. Can you send me daily emails about hedgehogs and yellow weasels? Or any other animals that habitate in Beijing?

I believe seeing any animal in a city is a good luck omen. In Texas, we used to see coyotes. People don't like them, but they are very cool.

I think that this post brings up the interesting issue of how well fauna is documented in China. I get the impression that the average Chinese city dweller doesn't know much about Chinese fauna. Compare this to Australia, where we are brought up on posters and charts of endangered animals, snakes and spiders. Does anybody know what China's most poisonous snake is? It's facts like these that don't seem to be part of popular culture and are not very well documented.

Another Huan Shulang sighting: China Central Place (Huamao) in Chaoyang. There's a little family of them that lives in the hedges there.

I saw a weasel on the pitch at Red Ball, ran around the edge and then scooted towards the Bus Bar

About two weeks ago the Jinan Evening Post ran a short story with a photo of a huangshulang that stopped traffic in Jinan. The article postulated that the drivers' motivation to avoid hitting the huangshulang was the huangshulang's tendency to catch and eat other less desirable rodents, like mice and rats.

Great. This blog answers a huge question that has stuck in the back of my mind for quite some time. I saw a dead huang shulang while riding my bike on the third ring road near Guomao a few months ago and mistook it for a ferret. As an English country yokel who kept ferrets as a teenager, this it was very surreal sight. How on earth did a ferret find its way to the centre of the hustling, bustling modern metropolis that is Beijing? Now I know it wasn't a ferret. Thank you Danwei for clearing this up for me.

It's widely believed in village area that some weasels have the power to obsess people. I initially didn't buy this kind of story, but eventually believed it after some of my close relatives shared their experiences.

Hog badger is kinda of cute.

As for Huang Shu Lang, in the 60's, in Beijing, my parent's families they all had chickens, and you are suppose to lock up the coup real tight so Huang Shu Lang won't eat your chickens.

There are more mammals around Beijing than you may suspect. There are even said to be leopards (can provide background on this if anyone is interested).

Here is something I wrote based on a Chinese magazine article on hog badgers, etc. I also have info on cats/canids.

A 1983-85 survey of mammals of the Beijing-Tianjin area found 47 species, of which badger M. meles and hog badger Arctonyx collaris were most numerous, of small carnivores Siberian weasel Mustela sibirica most widespread. A 1993 popular science book on protected spp of Beijing added jackal and yellow throated marten Martes flavigula to the list. We began our own survey of predators in 1998, recorded 10 spp including racoon dog. We discovered that a 1956 Peking University study recorded "a certain number" of wolves which attacked livestock and humans. Records from the 80s of furs bought [by the state] showed 74 wolf skins in period 1974-79 in Miyun county and 195 in Changping [both in northern outer suburbs] in 1979-81, but very few after this. A national survey 1995-2000 found signs of wolves in Yanqing, Huairou and Pinggu counties but no live specimens. We had reports from interviews of wolves from Mutianyu (Great Wall site) in Huairou county and Songshan in Yanqing county but no proof of wolves at a fur buying post at Miyun. One day we found whitish grey, coarse droppings at Yunmengshan on border of Miyun and Huairou counties, which we at first thought was from a wolf because of the well known rhyme "they eat red meat and leave white sh1t" but on analysis found they consisted of fish scales and bones, so they probably weren't from wolves. But we found what was clearly a canid footprint in the Sanyu scenic area together with carnivore droppings, this area is rarely visited and there were ugulate prints around, so we believe there are wolves in this area.
In recent years people have been moved from the mountains to plain for environmental reasons, which should benefit wolves and other large mammals. Judging by studies from elsewhere in China objective conditions for maintaining wolf population exist in Beijing but habitat has been eroded by man, so even if there are isolated areas suitable for wolves, they are obstacles to their long-term survival.
Foxes can live in artificial environment, eg Tokyo, London, but in Beijing they are restricted to mountains like other carnivores. We only saw one fox, in the Wulingshan nature reserve, they are rarely trapped by local farmers, their droppings show they are sometimes found near villages, we found old and fresh droppings, which means that numbers are stable. Records of fur purchases show numbers highest in Mentougou, Miyun and Changping... Foxes stay in/around their earths in breeding season, wander at other times so are hard to observe.
Racoon dogs produce good fur and meat and are still hunted in the mountains, are widely distributed, we found signs of them in all their likely habitats, droppings by side of road and trapped animals in cages for sale, they have most varied diet of all canids, 5-12 to a litter, if they reach a (stable) breeding population, their numbers will revive fast but at present they are widely trapped which keeps population down.
Because foxes and racoon dogs have mixed diet and spread over wide area, have large litters they both have (potential to) increase in numbers in the Beijing area. They are natural hosts of rabies and because they are often found near villages they can spread the disease to pets and livestock and to people so an increase in their numbers could be a threat.
Jackals (rpt: jackals) are found in Miyun, Yanqing, Mentougou, etc, one survey found 20 individuals but they are not mentioned in "Survey of Beijing Animals" or records of fur sales, and farmers we interviewed had not encountered them and may have misreported foxes as jackals as they can easily be confused. If they are confirmed in Beijing they would still be rare, wolves and jackals are both pack animals so they could increase.

Bao Weidong, Li Xiaojing, Shi Yang, Complex [facts concerning] predatory animals of the Beijing area, Da Ziran [China Nature], 2005, issue 6, 17-19 [in Chinese]

See also eg link

You can't just leave us dangling there, Zheng - what were your relatives' experiences. I can't be the only one who wants to know.

And Michael - that was a pretty extensive list of information. Thanks a lot for that, but could you expand on the leopards?

My favorite Danwei post-and-comments of all time! I've seen racoons in the southwest of town, on Mishi Hutong, near Kang Youwei's guju. According to "The Adventures of Wu," in old Beijing the belief held that stretching a dried raccoon skin over a stool, then sitting on it, relieved piles. That tradition has died. Raccoons are primed for a comeback.

i saw one of these in Beijing once...

link

Lets hear about the leopards of Beijing!

Michael, do tell us!

Fantastic - we also have huangshulang in Shanghai! My husband was walking home last night after a rainstorm and saw one emerge from the gardens of our complex, a rare and beautiful sight in the city. We tried to identify it and at first wrongly thought it was a mongoose.

Anyone know what they eat, or are they omnivores?

I wish I could bring my guns from America to China... I'd have mucho fun shooting these things...

NOT.

Huangshulang eat mostly small things like insects and mice, but they also eat snakes. Birds as big as a chicken aren't usually on the menu except when food starts to get scarce. That's probably why they've got the reputation for killing chickens around Chinese New Year - that's about the end of winter when their normal supplies of food are likely to be running out.

On the leopard thing, I finally got around to doing a very quick search and found that Xinhua had reported it back in 2001: link

There's a typo in that report - the "tochards" at Huairou reservoir should be pochards. I was also puzzled by the reference to gorals as part of the Beijing leopards' diet, since Wikipedia says that Gorals are an ethnic minority in the south of Poland and north of Slovakia: link

How on earth did these Poles and Slovaks become part of Beijing's woodland wildlife? And are the Polish and Slovakian embassies doing anything to stop their citizens being eaten leopards? Fortunately it turns out that the article is actually referring to a different kind of goral - a wild goat-like creature: link

I live in Shanghai, inner ring, pretty dense population. This morning I caught a glimpse of what I thought was a large squirrel about to cross a path in my complex before turning tail back into the bushes. I waited nearby for about a minute and sure enough the creature appeared again and turns out to be a weasel (exactly that as shown above). Bad luck/good luck - I choose good luck, because how lucky is it to see a wild animal these days, especially something so interesting and in such a populated area?

I've seen Huangshulang without number in Beijing, usually but not always in hutongs late at night. I have also been very surprised to find that my Chinese friends dismiss my sightings outright, saying I saw a cat or a rat. Like the chap above, I was a also a ferret man when a lad, (or a ferret lad...) and I can spot a mustelid tow fields away just by the way it moves.

To my understanding, there are four animals that have some kind of supernatural significance in Chinese culture. These are the fox, the snake, the porcupine (or hedgehog?) and the Chinese Yellow Weasel (Huangshulang).

The superstition I am aware about regarding the Huangshulang is that though it is neither unlucky nor lucky to see one, it is extremely unlucky to disturb the places where they live, no matter if it is yoru woodpile, your outhouse or under yoru bed. You should let them get on with rraising their family and not disturb them at any price.

To my mind, I think it is lucky to see one. Being tuned in to these kinds of things, I often see them when others don't. Sometimes I even feel that when a Huangshulang moves quickly enough, it becomes kind of transparent...

For anyone that sees one, you may interested to know that like many members of the weasel family, they are very curious, and if you see one disappear into a wall or hedge, if you stand still for a few minutes, you stand a good chance of him poking his head out again to see what is going on.

I live in a hutong off dongsi. My small yard is a veritable zoo- lovely cats and huangshulang, giant spiders and flying cockroach-like bugs, strange insects that look like they belong to the prehistoric age, even the occasional butterfly.

The only unwelcome guest- scorpions. Every once in a while one pops up in an unlikely place. I was bitten by one in my bathroom a month ago.. Just a prick, but later numbing and then an interesting sort of pain.

Anyone else have a scorpion problem? Or am I the only lucky one?

Check your shoes!

I have a rather sophisticated and not usually superstitious friend from Tianjin who is afraid of huang shu lang because of their supposed supernatural powers. I couldn't quite understand what it is they're supposed to do to people, but what she was trying to describe sounded somewhat similar to what Zheng mentions above. She also thinks they have some sort of bad odor, similar to a skunk.

Does anyone know the taxonomic name for the huangshulang?

About 6 month ago the Jinan Evening Post ran a short story with a photo of a huangshulang that stopped traffic in Jinan. The article postulated that the drivers' motivation to avoid hitting the huangshulang was the huangshulang's tendency to catch and eat other less desirable rodents, like mice and rats.

I have seen the Huang Shulang at least half a dozen times coming home at night to building 1 of Douban Hutong compound. It usually runs across the parking lot and disappears into the bushes. No doubt it is rummaging through the trash like the other animals. Who says cats are all domesticated?

Bravo! Hen Hao! This is exactly the kind of stuff I'd love to see far more of! I learned Chinese mostly from Beijingers of the old school. Not only was their Beijing tu hua beaufiful,but I was infused with a deep appreciation of the small villiage orientation of Lao Beijing. Please use this as a base for the prolifiration of everything,including language,connected with the "old neighborhood" Beijing which everybody loves! Cordially, Ken Grey (Ke Rui Nien)

Huang shu lang has been known to have the ability to become "jing" which basically allows them to attain certain supernatural abilities as I have gathered. One distinct character when they become jing is that they can then manipulate humans which ultimately control the mind of a human. To put it more simply, a human being can be possessed by a huang shu lang jing and this happens because some animals such as fox and huang shu lang wants to be enlightened. Therefore, they are not good animals to be around humans because animals are forbiden to be enlightened in the kingdom of heaven and thus they can't practice to achieve englightenment likes human themselves do.
So I consider huang shu lang as bad omen and a kind of animal to stay away from if seen one.

Speaking of yellow weasel there was rare footage of one scurrying down a Beijing hutong at night in part 5 of the six-part BBC series Wild China http://tinyurl.com/6j7g8s which is currently being shown in UK.
The series has some wonderful shots of rare species from pandas (mating!) to François' langur and giant salamander, but is let down by a terrible cliché-ridden commentary. The makers seem to have been paranoid about offending their Chinese hosts (I have some evidence for this) and let viewers - and themselves - down as a result.

I have just returned from Beijing where I took part in the opening ceremony. We also took part in the 3 rehersals beforehand and used to get back to the Rainbow Hotel at about midnight! this was when we seen the HuangshuLang, we saw them twice and they run like squirrels, when you see there long haired tails bobbing up and down. I asked the chinese interpretator about them, and she said that they "stole children" this is obvious local superstition

The CBD of Qingdao also has them, as well as beautiful Laoshan lying 20km to the east. Was out eating chuanr when I saw one running along a wall. Had no clue at the time and thought maybe the Tsingtao had me seeing things, or it was some mutant species crawling up from the sewers. Then I was out hiking at Laoshan a few weeks later and a local villager had one hanging on the outside of his house. His dog had killed it. Thank you so much for this post! I am always looking to learn more about the flora and fauna of China and if anybody has some recommendations for sites or databases, please email me at marcus@qingdaossadventures.com

We have also twice spotted a huang shulan in our Qingdao garden! Wonderful to find out what it is and have nature just outside our back door while in an urban setting!

Huang Shulang, Yellow Weasel, sighted at night running around the neighborhood near niu ren jie. It was yellow in color, aout as long as a house cat with and had a strait tail. Very cool to see WILD life with all of the construction (demolition) all around.

Living in the hutongs near dongsi / zhangzizhonglu, I've seen Huangshulang pretty regularly when walking home late at night. I'd always idly wondered what they ate -- until a few nights ago, when I discovered one raiding an overstuffed trash can. Normally they run past in a flash but this one was pigging out and not paying much attention to me, so I watched for a few minutes.

I always thought Beijing was a dead zone until I moved into the hutongs. TONS of wildlife here! Besides the weasels, there are all kinds of birds and insects, and my favorite, bihu, the grey geckos that wait under lamp posts for prey.

Also, for other amphibian lovers, there are a few species of frog / toad living in liangmahe. They're pretty dense in the area around Boat bar, where sanlitun north st. crosses the river.

@Ed Shred: Wikipedia says that it's Mustela sibirica.

I saw one the other night in Dongcheng near the Zhangzizhonglu Subway station.

For the longest time, I thought the huangshulang I was seeing were escaped pet ferrets... This makes me want to start a sports team and take the huangshulang as our mascot.

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