Saturday, 1 March 2008

Gret wildlife viewings whilst snowshoeing

The Gran Paradiso area is renowned for its wildlife, largely because it is a designated National Park and hence no hunting is allowed at any time.

Known especially for its large population of ibex, the Gran Paradiso is also a paradise for chamois, hares, foxes, deer and, as we saw last week, the rare lammergeier vulture. Recognisable by its huge wing span (2.8m) and its orange underbelly (the result of contact with iron oxide in water and mud), the lammergeier, or bearded vulture is still relatively rare in the Alps, despite an on-going programme of reintroduction. So we were very excited to get this sighting during a snowshoe walk near the Cogne Valley. (Photo: Alistair Wylie).

The usual suspects were also present - lots of chamois in the forests and ibex on the sunnier denuded south-facing slopes. Seeing the wildlife in the winter is a real privilege and whilst last week the snow conditions meant they were having a fairly easy time of it, that's probably about to change now with forecasts of heavy snow for the next few days, so we will be careful to watch any animals with binoculars from a distance so we don't scare them into running away in deep snow and hence using up all their precious energy.

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