Nature & Mountains

Which animals can be found in the mountains in autumn?

Although autumn brings cooler temperatures, it’s still a lovely time for a day out. And if you decide to go walking or hiking in the mountains at this time, you may be lucky enough to spot some of the natural wildlife!

Here are seven animals that you might see in autumn in the mountains…

1. The spotted woodpecker

The spotted woodpecker seeks out insects in the bark of a tree
The hammering of a spotted woodpecker can be heard 800m away © Yann Lerjen

Weight: 70 to 100g
Size: 20 to 25cms

A native of Japan, the spotted woodpecker can be seen all over France. This small bird is recognisable by its black and white stripes and the red tip on its tail. It feeds on insects, seeds and fruit, and is particularly fond of grubs.

This pretty bird has been a protected species in France for more than 40 years. It has a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years in the wild.  

Where can you see it?

The spotted woodpecker can be found in forests and wooded areas.

Did you know?

When it is hammering on the bark of trees, the noise can be heard over a distance of more than 800 metres. They are also very good climbers.

2. The squirrel

Squirrels are easy to  spot on your autumn walks
Make sure to look out for squirrels on your autumn adventures in the woods! © Louis Dupressoir

Weight: about 330g
Size: Between 18 and 25cm

A real star of autumn, you have a very good chance of coming across a squirrel during your autumn walk in the mountains, as they are almost everywhere.

With its bushy tail and red or grey fur, this hyperactive animal jumps from branch to branch at lightning speed. A solitary creature, it moves around during the day and sometimes hibernates during the winter. It has a wide range of vision, a highly-developed sense of smell, which it uses to find its provisions, and a very fine sense of touch.

Autumn is the perfect time for the squirrel to stock up on food before the winter sets in. Its varied diet consists of nuts, berries, flowers, buds, snails, birds’ eggs, pine cones, seeds and insects.

Where can you see it?

Anywhere there are trees!

Did you know?

In order to survive the winter, the squirrel will dig small storage holes at the foot of trees to hide its takings. Squirrels can hide up to 125kg of food!

3. The deer

Two impressive stags in the woods in autumn
Deer can be spotted in forests across the alps, but you’ll have to remain quiet if you want to watch them. © Jacques Dillies

Weight: Up to 200kg (the doe rarely exceeds 100kg)
Size: Up to 2.6m long

An iconic forest animal, the deer breeds between mid-September and mid-October, which is when you will hear the bellowing for which it is known.

It’s an exhausting time for the deer, when they hardly eat at all, as the males are busy fighting, mating and looking after the hinds (female deer).

Once the rutting period is over, they spend most of their time eating and sleeping. As herbivores, they can eat up to 15kg of vegetation every day, and are particularly fond of plants that grow in the light.

Where to see it?

In the forest, if you are lucky!

Did you know?

The deer’s antlers start off soft and fluffy – called velvet – but turn into sharp weapons that they eventually use in battle to win females.

4. The wild boar

The wild boar comes out of its hiding places to look for food
Keep your distance from a wild boar, they are extremely protective of their young! © Dylan Chan

Weight: Up to 200kg
Size : between 180 and 200cms

The secretive wild boar is known for its huge size, its massive head and, in the case of the male, its long tusks.

However, as plants, insects and grasses become increasingly scarce, it is forced to come out of their hiding place in search of food. It usually lives in dense forests, but comes closer to the fields to feed. When running, it can reach speeds of up to 70km per hour!

Did you know?

The wild boar is a burrowing animal, which uses its snout to turn over the earth to find food.

If you spot a wild boar during your walk, do not approach it, as it can be dangerous. It is best observed from afar, with binoculars.

5. The fox

Two young foxes wait for their parents to return
It is common to see red foxes both in the mountains and urban areas, they’re often spotted near roads, so watch out! © Claude Laprise

Weight: Up to 14kg
Size: Up to 90cm

With its red coat, long slender body, pointed face and ears and bushy tail, the fox hunts extensively in the autumn. It generally feeds on rodents, rabbits or birds as well as fish, insects and fruit before becoming vegetarian when fruit and berries are in season.

Where to see it?

A bold fox will venture far beyond the fields and forest, and can often be spotted in towns and cities. They can live at altitudes of up to 2,500m in the mountains.

Did you know?

Foxes have a highly developed sense of hearing and can hear the tinkling of jewels more than 40m away.


6. The marmot

Marmots may allow you to approach them, if you're lucky
Marmots are a particularly common creature in the French Alps. You’ll need to spot them before they head into hibernation! © S&B Vonlanthen

Weight: between 5 and 8kg
Taille : 45 à 60 centimètres

Native to the Alps, you’ll hear the shrill whistle of the marmot before you see it. Autumn is a great time to meet them before they enter their six-month hibernation. Some will allow you to approach them, to a point.

The marmot is an omnivore that feeds on grasses, herbs, flowers, buds, roots and bark, as well as small insects, worms, snails and sometimes eggs. It digs its burrow in large open meadows, allowing it to see predators from a distance and take cover if necessary. It also retreats into its warm burrow to hibernate.

Where can you see it?

The marmot can be seen in mountains across France, but particularly in the Northern and Southern Alps, between 800m and 3,000m in altitude.

Did you know?

Marmots stand up on their hind legs to get a better look at their environment. At the slightest hint of danger, they will let out a shrill cry or whistle, to warn their colony to seek shelter.

7. Roe deer

You'll need to be quick to spot a roe deer in the woods
The roe deer is the smallest type of deer in France. @ Yann Lerjen

Weight: 11-25kg
Size: 90cm to a metre long

Contrary to popular belief, the roe deer is also a mountain animal and can be found particularly in Valloire. Autumn is the ideal season to spot them, as it is when they are out looking for food.

They are herbivorous and love leaves and brambles. You can recognise them by their small antlers (which fall off in autumn), as well as their distinctive bark and their endearing almond-shaped eyes!

Where to see it?

In the forest – but they will often flee rather than let you approach.

Did you know?

The male roe deer is called a roebuck, the female is the doe and the young are kids.

General guidelines for spotting alpine wildlife in autumn

Don’t feed the animals, as you risk harming their digestion and the environment in which they live. It’s best to keep your distance so that you can observe them without disturbing them.

When you go for a walk or a hike, remember these few points:

  • Take into account the times when the animals are vulnerable (rutting, calving)
  • Make sure that your route will not disturb the animals
  • Try not to startle animals – use open paths where possible, so that the animals can see you coming from a distance
  • Use binoculars to watch them from afar to avoid getting too close – it’s better for the animals
  • Keep your dog on a lead so as not to frighten the animals
  • Be sure to check the hunting times for your local area to stay safe whilst exploring the mountains

Whether you are spending your holiday near Lake Annecy, La Clusaz or Morzine, the weather is still fairly mild in autumn, so you may see animals during your walks. Remember to share your best photographs with us on our social media!

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