Bonjour to the Wildlife in France!
France is renowned for 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 is going to pinpoint a few interesting animals which you may want to keep an eye out for when you’re next visiting the stunning country!
Genets are closely related to other little animals called mongoose and civets. They are all carnivorous, eating usually insects, and small rodents and birds, and use their sharp (retractable) claws to trap their prey.
They have a body much like that of a domestic cat, but with almost leopard like ‘spot’ markings on the greyish-brown fur – very distinctive and beautiful. Their tail is longer and bushier than that of a domestic cat, and the tail of the genet has very distinctive stripes. Their heads are small and pointed, and the 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 camouflaged coat means you are very unlikely to come across one! So you can consider yourself very lucky indeed if you do.
The Genet is actually a native mammal of Africa, belonging to the family of Viverridae and was introduced to Spain and south west France in the 12th century by the Saracens who used them to catch rodents in their dwellings before that role was taken over by the domestic cat.
Two species exist in Europe currently, the more common being Genetta genetta which is 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 the time it has been in Europe it is not considered as an introduced species.
They are very pretty, 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 creature 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 in the same manner as a cat or dog will.
Their main diet consists of small mammals, birds, molluscs and insects, anything up to the size of a rabbit or squirrel will be taken but in practice the bulk of their diet is comprised of voles and wood mice. They are extremely agile and excellent climbers. They seem to prefer to be near water where they are good swimmers, however they will also be found in extremely dry habitats.
They are present in most of the western half of France with the possible exception of western Brittany and are generally to be found in wooded areas, often where water is present where they occupy a territory of about 5 square kilometres, using a hole or cavity in an old tree, rock face or something of a similar nature for cover.
They have a tendency to use toilet areas, where excrement will be found in heaps, which is a useful indication of their presence.
Breeding can take place at almost any time of the year, but the young are normally 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 do occur.
The Green lizard can measure up to 40 cm in length! Thats more than the average ruler! Two thirds of the total length is tail, which is wide at the base, becoming cylindrical towards the end, large flat head and rounded nose. The hearing organs are situated at the rear of the head and are in the form of a vertical oval which are as large as the eyes and clearly visible.
The body is broad 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. They prefer areas of 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 favoured if there is sufficient cover.
They are a superb climbers, whether it is in trees and bushes or on stone walls and this is where they catch most of their prey of 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 reaches 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, and has very good climbing abilities, aided by the ability to separate the two ‘toes’ of each hoof, allowing greater ability to grip.
The chamois lives up to 25 years, although 15-16 is more common. The main factor restricting the lifespan of the chamois is his teeth, which 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 around); and 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 stay largely solitary except at mating season.
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 but it is mans presence that 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!
The North wolves
A wolf has been seen in northern France for the first time in a century, according to the French Biodiversity Office! This is very exciting news and the lone animal was spotted by a surveillance camera as it wandered through the village of Londinières, 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 over-hunting in the 1930s, the animals returned to the country thirty years ago – crossing over from Italy.
However, none of them has been sighted so far north since the species re-established itself 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 distances of several hundred kilometres in a few months before settling. The maximum distance from the place of birth can exceed 1,500 kilometres (1,350 miles). There are roughly 530 wolves in France today, mostly living in the Alps and the south-east 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 large 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, so mothers (sows) may have as many as three births every two years. This is resulting 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 population of wild boar has continued to increase. Similarly, thousands of boar are killed each year by trains and cars; far fewer of which have been out on the rails or roads due to lockdown conditions.
Locals say it is important to keep the wild boar population down, as the animals can cause severe damage to agriculture and property, including wheat crops and other grains. These crops are often surrounded by pine forests, which 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, and 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 off of these five animals alone it is easy to become excited to discovering 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!
We hope you enjoyed! If you’re ever in France and need some guidance to finding these amazing animals! Have a look at the operators below!