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Animals in the Alps Mountain Range

What to do on a nature walk in the Alps

As with any mountaineering expedition, make sure you have the right clothing: you’ll need walking shoes/boots and light layers, plus a hat or hat in summer. Also take sunscreen and your sunglasses (even in winter the sun can burn, especially if there is snow to reflect it). Finally, remember your camera and take a pair of lightweight binoculars. A pocket wildlife guide can come in handy, particularly if you’re looking for animal tracks.

Alpine mammals

Although exotic animals such as the Lynx have been reintroduced to the Alps in small numbers, others such as bears and wolves have unfortunately become extinct. Alpine animals you are most likely to spot are ibex and deer. The red deer is the largest of the deer species and is most likely to be seen in forests or grasslands. Roe deer are smaller and have spotted fawns. Of the goats, the Alpine Ibex tends to be larger, with curved horns, while the Chamois has distinctive pale stripes on the face. You can also see smaller carnivores such as Red Fox, Badger, Pine Marten or Stoat. These creatures live in forested areas. The Stoat and Pine Marten are similar, however, the Pine Marten has a yellow neck patch, while the Stoat has a brown coat with white underparts in summer and a white coat with a black tail in winter. Rodents in the mountains include dormice, hares, squirrels and the alpine marmot.

Reptiles of the Alps

There are two species of viper in the European Alpine regions, both venomous. The Common Viper has a distinctive zig-zag band, while the Nose-Horned Viper can be identified by its horn. The Grass Snake is a type of Adder and is harmless. Other reptiles found in the European Alps include lizards, frogs, toads, newts and salamanders. The Alpine Salamander has a black, shiny body while the Fire Salamander has bright yellow patches.

Birds of the Alps

Alpine bird life is rich and varied. There are a number of birds of prey that have made the Alpine regions their home, including the rare and protected high-altitude golden eagle. The Vulture is also a rare and endangered bird in the Alpine mountains. Magpies, kestrels, hawks and owls are more common. Indeed, the Alps are home to eight owl species, including the Eagle Owl, Long-Eared Owl, Scops Owl and Pygmy Owl. Also look out for Woodpeckers, Nutcrackers, Wall Climbers and the Eurasian Bear. High altitude mountain dwellers include Common Chough and Alpine Chough. the first has a long red bill and the second a short yellow one.

Alpine insects

The beautiful Alpenapollo butterfly is unfortunately very rare and protected. Alpenapollo is white with black patches and red spots outlined in black. Also protected is the Alpine Long-horned Beetle which has long, black spotted antennae. The Burnet Moth can be identified by the bright red patches on its metallic black or greenish forewings.

What you see each day will be determined partly by your altitude and location in the Alps, partly by the time of day and season, and partly by luck. However, the Alps are an exciting destination for wildlife enthusiasts and, with a little patience and determination, your efforts should be rewarded.

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