Bonjour to the Wildlife in France!
France is renowned for its beautiful scenery, cities, food, and champagne! But did you know that France is also home to many beautiful animals?
Wildlife in France is discrete and unique, and this blog will pinpoint a few exciting animals which you may want to watch when you’re next visiting the stunning country!
|Wildlife||Description||Distribution||Diet||Behavior and Habits||Conservation Status|
|South Genets||– Closely related to mongooses and civets. |
– Carnivorous, feeding on insects, small rodents, and birds.
– Nocturnal and elusive.
– Native to Africa.
|– Native to Africa, introduced to Spain and southwest France in the 12th century.|
– Two species exist in Europe.
– Rarely seen outside of captivity.
|– Primarily eat small mammals, birds, mollusks, and insects. – Can consume vegetation but it’s a minor part of their diet. – Excellent climbers and swimmers.||– Nocturnal and elusive, sleeping in tree holes or hollows during the day. |
– Mostly positive relationship with humans as they help control rodent populations.
|Green Lizards||– Reach up to 40 cm in length. – Males are green with black and lemon yellow speckles. – Females have yellowish lines down the back outlined with black specks. – Prefer dense, bushy habitats with sunlight.||– Restricted to regions below latitude 49° in France, mainly south of the Seine. |
– Absent from Corsica.
– Favor areas with dense, bushy habitat.
|– Diet consists of insects, butterflies, fruits, small mammals, birds’ eggs, and baby birds in nests. – Superb climbers. – Can sometimes be indifferent to human presence.||– Excellent climbers in trees, bushes, and stone walls. – Diet mainly comprises insects and butterflies.|
– Not dangerous to humans.
|Chamois||– About 75-80 cm tall and weigh up to 60 kg. – Excellent climbers. – Short, curled horns. – Black stripes under the eyes. – Change coat color with the seasons.||– Prefer lower regions but are forced higher up due to human presence. – Have been reported near the summit of Mont Blanc.||– Primarily herbivores, feeding on grasses, seeds, flowers, and even tree bark in winter. – Need to adapt to seasonal food availability. – Excellent climbing and gripping abilities. – Lives up to 25 years.||– Form herds, except for males who are solitary except during mating. – Prefer lower regions but go higher due to human presence. – Able to adapt to seasonal food availability. – Noted for climbing and gripping skills.||Least Concern|
|The North Wolves||– Grey wolves returning to northern France for the first time in a century. – Likely a young male in search of a mate.||– Wolves re-established in France about thirty years ago, mainly in the Alps and the southeast. – Lone wolf sighting in Seine-Maritime in northern France.||– Omnivorous but primarily eat small mammals. – Increased numbers have led to protests from farmers. – Wolves are a protected species under EU law.||– Wander over long distances before settling. – Sightings of wolves in northern France were rare. – Increasing numbers have led to protests from farmers.||Least Concern|
|Wild Boars||– Population rapidly growing due to climate change, food availability, and lack of hunting during confinement. – Cause damage to agriculture.||– Mainly found in the Occitanie region, especially in Hautes-Pyrénées, Gers, and Gard departments. – Expanding closer to urban areas.||– Omnivorous, primarily feeding on crops, grains, and occasionally fruits. – Mothers can have multiple births every two years, increasing population. – Cause significant damage to agriculture.||– Population growing due to climate and food availability. – Hunting ban during confinement led to further population growth. – Getting closer to urban areas. – Cause damage to agriculture and property.||Least Concern|
Genets are closely related to other little animals called mongooses and civets. They are all carnivorous, usually eating insects, small rodents, and birds, and they use their sharp (retractable) claws to trap their prey.
They have a body much like a domestic cat, but with almost leopard-like ‘spot’ markings on the greyish-brown fur – very distinctive and beautiful. Their tail is more extended and bushier than that of a domestic cat, and the tail of the genet has definite stripes. Their heads are small and pointed, and their ears are large!
Genets are very rarely seen as they are nocturnal. They tend to sleep in holes in trees, hollows, etc, during the day, and their hidden coat means you are unlikely to come across one! So you can consider yourself very lucky indeed if you do.
The Genet is a native mammal of Africa, belonging to the family of Viverridae, and was introduced to Spain and southwest France in the 12th century by the Saracens, who used them to catch rodents in their dwellings before the domestic cat took over that role.
Two species exist in Europe. Currently, the more common is Genetta genetta, found in western and southern France and the Iberian peninsular. The other, which is very rare, is G Genetta isabelae found in Ibiza, Spain, and the Balearic islands. Due to its time in Europe, it is not considered an introduced species.
They are beautiful, long and slim, pale grey with dark spots on the body with a boldly dark banded tail, pointed face, and quite large pointed ears; they grow up to 60cm in length, and their tail can be nearly as long again, but being a creature of the night and also a beast that dislikes the presence of humans they are rarely seen outside of captivity. Although they are omnivores, vegetation plays a minor role in their diet, and they may well only consume it as a cat or dog will.
Their primary diet comprises small mammals, birds, mollusks, and insects. Anything up to the size of a rabbit or squirrel will be taken, but in practice, the bulk of their diet comprises voles and wood mice. They are incredibly agile and excellent climbers. They seem to prefer to be near water, where they are good swimmers. However, they will also be found in arid habitats.
They are present in most of the western half of France, with the possible exception of west Brittany. Furthermore, they are generally found in wooded areas, often where water is present, where they occupy a territory of about 5 square kilometers, using a hole or cavity in an old tree, rock face, or something similar for cover.
They tend to use toilet areas, where excrement will be found in heaps, a helpful indication of their presence.
Breeding can occur almost any time of the year, but the young are generally born during April / May or August / September, producing 1 to 4 young, two litters a year being possible.
Their relationship with humans is, on balance, a positive one. Although there is a possibility that chickens and ducks may be taken from time to time, their main diet is rodents which helps control numbers.
Populations are not generally threatened, although road building can be disruptive locally, and road kills occur.
The Green lizard can measure up to 40 cm in length! That’s more than the average ruler! Two-thirds of the total length is the tail, which is wide at the base, becoming cylindrical towards the end, large flat head and a rounded nose. The hearing organs are situated at the rear of the head and are in the form of a vertical oval which is as large as the eyes and visible.
The body is broadly backed with folds or pleats. The male is almost entirely green or brownish green, speckled with black and lemon yellow. The female often has two or four longitudinal yellowish lines running down the back outlined with black specks. During the breeding period, the males’ throat and part of the head are blue, and the stomach and the inside of the legs are bright yellow and turquoise.
They are restricted in France to the regions below latitude 49 ° or generally south of the Seine and are absent from Corsica. Additionally, they prefer areas of a dense, bushy habitat that are not over-managed and have plenty of sunlight; hedges, brambles, and the edges of woods are typical, although scrubby wetlands and similar areas are also favored if there is sufficient cover.
They are superb climbers, whether in trees and bushes or on stone walls, and this is where they catch most of their prey insects and butterflies, although they will also eat fruits, small micro mammals, birds’ eggs, and even baby birds in nests.
They can often completely ignore the presence of humans, yet at other times they will flee a short distance at the slightest movement, where they will often stay and observe you. As with the Oscillated Lizard, they can give quite painful “bites” when handled, but this is not in any way dangerous, not even to a small child.
The chamois reach about 75 – 80 cm in height and weigh up to 60 kg. This weight is at the end of summer – during winter. The chamois can lose up to 50% of its body weight. It is very well adapted to the mountain conditions in which it lives. It has excellent climbing abilities, aided by the ability to separate the two ‘toes’ of each hoof. This allows the more extraordinary ability to grip.
The chamois live up to 25 years, although 15-16 is more common. The main factor restricting the lifespan of the chamois is its teeth. They slowly wear out until the chamois can no longer feed effectively.
The identifying features of the chamois include the short, slightly curled horns (note: the horns are kept all year round). As well as the black stripes underneath the eyes on an otherwise white face. The body hair can be grey (winter) or brown (summer).
The females and young live in herds, but the males remain solitary except during mating season.
The preferred diet is grasses, seeds, and flowers, although in winter, even tree bark may be eaten. Surprisingly, the chamois prefer to live in the more plentiful lower regions. Man’s presence forces them higher up the mountains.
Note: a chamois has been reported as being seen very close to the summit of Mont Blanc. A testament to their hardiness and climbing skills, if not to their common sense! A significant part of Wildlife in France.
The North wolves
According to the French Biodiversity Office, a wolf has been seen in northern France for the first time in a century! This is inspiring news. A surveillance camera spotted the lone animal as it wandered through the village of Londinières. This is situated near the French coast in the department of Seine-Maritime.
The prefecture said in a statement that experts from the French Biodiversity Office concluded that it was “very probably” a grey wolf, according to The Telegraph.
Although no wolves remained in France after overhunting in the 1930s, the animals returned to the country thirty years ago – crossing over from Italy.
However, none has been sighted so far north since the species was re-established in the country.
It is thought the lone wolf may be a young male in search of a mate.
Speaking of their movement habits, the Seine-Maritime prefecture said: ”They can cover several hundred kilometers in a few months before settling. The maximum length from the place of birth can exceed 1,500 kilometers (1,350 miles). There are roughly 530 wolves in France today, mostly living in the Alps and the southeast of the country, according to the ONCFS hunting and wildlife agency.
Wolves are a protected species under the EU’s Bern Convention, but the increase in their numbers has led to protests from farmers, who ask for a significant annual cull of wolves. Twelve thousand sheep were believed to have been killed by wolves in France in 2017.
Wild boar numbers were growing rapidly – causing concern and controversy – even before the confinement period began. Over the past five years, their population has grown to around two million in France. They are mainly found in the Occitanie region, especially in the Hautes-Pyrénées, Gers, and Gard departments.
Climate change and warmer temperatures mean their food sources are plentiful. Mothers (sows) may have as many as three births every two years. This results in more piglets surviving the winter, growing the population further and quickly.
And, as hunting has been banned during the confinement period due to the coronavirus crisis, the wild boar population has continued to increase. Similarly, thousands of boar are killed each year by trains and cars. But far fewer of which have been on the rails or roads due to lockdown conditions.
Locals say it is essential to keep the wild boar population down. The animals can cause severe damage to agriculture and property, including wheat crops and other grains. Pine forests often surround these crops. They provide ample shelter, food, and cover for the boar to travel between the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, the Gers, and the Hautes-Pyrénées. The animals are also getting closer and closer to urban areas. They are becoming a more common sight in the Gard, near Nîmes, and even on the outskirts of the Toulouse area (Haute-Garonne).
Summary of Wildlife in France
Based on these five animals alone, it is easy to become excited to discover other Wildlife in France! There are other animals, particularly along the coasts of France, in terms of marine life!
What are you interested in looking out for next time you’re in France? Comment below!
Check out the blogs below for other topics you may be interested in:
Wildlife in Germany, Wildlife in Spain, and Wildlife in Italy.
We hope you enjoyed it! If you’re ever in France and need guidance to find these amazing animals! Thank you for reading Wildlife in France!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is one of the most common wild animals in France. It is widespread and adaptable, found in various habitats across the country.
Yes, France has several native animal species, including the European hedgehog, European badger, European roe deer, and European hare, among others.
While Paris is a bustling city, it still has some wildlife. You can find pigeons, sparrows, and other urban birds. Parks like the Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes are home to various bird species, and the Seine River has fish and occasional sightings of seals.
France is known for several iconic animals, but the rooster (coq) is a symbol of the country and is often associated with France. It’s also known for its French bulldog breed.
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