Tuesday, 6 November 2012


As a snowshoe guide in Morzine and Les Gets I am constantly seeing animal prints of all shapes and sizes criss-crossing the snow.  At times there are so many of them going here and there, around in circles, stopping and going back on themselves that I imagine a scene at night not unlike a market day. Except with animals instead of humans; coming out, having a chat, meeting up with their mates.  Of course the reality is quite different to this with various creatures cautiously going about their business trying not to get noticed by those who are likely to eat them!

In the deep fresh snow you see the prints of deer, chamois, wild boar, fox and hare. The smaller creatures often use the paths made by snowshoers as the snow is compressed and easier for them to walk on. I have seen badger, weasel, pine marten and squirrel prints.  It is rare to actually see these animals but when you do it is such a wonderful sight.  You often think to yourself: “How on earth do they survive the deep snow and freezing temperatures? Where do they live and what do they eat?” But whenever I have seen any animals they seem to be having great fun in the snow; just like us.  Up in the forest near Super Morzine I saw about 8 chamois, they were running and jumping about in gay abandon seemingly immune to the cold. They looked well fed and had thick warm coats to help them survive the extremes of temperature.
Another day I saw a weasel. He was very well camouflaged in his winter coat, all white with a black tip on his tail. Many animals use camouflage as a means of protection from higher predators in the winter.   He was having great fun running about in the snow. When he saw us he ran away at lightning speed and hid under a wood pile. When he felt safe he poked his head out and stared back at us. He lived next to a mountain restaurant so presumably managed to scrounge food from there.
I have never seen the wild boar but there is much evidence of them. Whilst snow shoeing on the slopes above Les Gets I saw a set of very large prints typical of wild boar and as the snow was so deep he or she had bored a furrow through it. They had obviously only recently gone past and I could smell them very faintly.  When the snows clear you can see where they have been churning up the soil in search of roots.
It’s one of the pleasures of snow shoeing: because you move at a slow pace you have time to take in the wonderful winter mountain environment.  You may not see the animals but it’s humbling to remember that this is their environment.

No comments:

Post a Comment