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Animals in the Alps of Europe

Indigo is a freelance writer turned 3D artist from the UK who also likes to write about her travel adventures!

Alpine marmot

Alpine marmot

What Animals Live in Mountains in Europe?

Animals that live in mountains like the Alps in Europe are, naturally enough, often those that shy away from contact with humans. However, if you do visit the Alps and walk quietly away from the busy paths, you may well see some of these Alpine animals and birds during your wanderings.

Top Ten Animals in the Alps

I've listed here 10 of the most loved animals (and a bird) found in the Alps. They include the Alpine marmot, the chamois, Alpine ibex, and the European lynx.

Some others are animals that live in mountains in other parts of Europe or on other continents too, such as the red squirrel and the brown hare. But all are a wonderful part of the Alpine ecosystem whose existence is jeopardised to some degree by human threats. Already a number of native species of Alpine animals have disappeared, the bear, wolf, and beaver among them.

While captive breeding programmes seek to stop the extinction of these creatures, there is nothing quite like seeing animals in the mountains where they belong.

The Alpine marmot is a rodent with a thick fur coat, large front teeth, and small ears. This much-loved animal can be seen scampering around sunny mountain slopes and may occasionally wander across your path. Some marmot populations, such as those near the Alpine mountain resort Davos in Switzerland, have become more used to humans and will eat from the hand.

The Alpine marmot belongs to the squirrel family, and eats grass and herbs. It hibernates in winter.

Video of Marmots in Austria—see these delightful Alpine animals eat and play

This short nature film about marmots shows a marmot family up close in the Austrian Alps. (There is brief narration in German.)

Sadly not as common a sight as once it was, the Red Squirrel is now a protected species. Although generally recognisable by its reddish colouring, a Red Squirrel can also have black fur, and it has a pale underbelly.

The red squirrel lives in woodland, as well as in parks and gardens. Its diet includes eggs and young birds in addition to plants.

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The brown hare is another creature that may be found across Europe, but this endangered species is generally wary of humans and is well-suited to solitary life in Alpine areas.

In breeding season, grown hares can be seen 'boxing' with their forefeet as they balance on their hind legs.

The brown hare has a mainly plant-based diet but occasionally will also eat small animals.

The edible dormouse (also known as the fat dormouse) is one of 3 varieties found in the Alps. The (ironically) rarer common dormouse and the tree dormouse are protected species, and are smaller and lighter.

This little rodent has large, dark eyes and thick grey fur. It has an omnivorous diet that includes plants and berries, eggs and baby birds.

The Alpine Ibex is a type of mountain goat with long curved horns. It lives high up in the Alps where it has a diet of lichen, grass and herbs.

Having been hunted almost to extinction, the Alpine ibex is now a protected species. It normally lives between 12 and 15 years.

Video of Alpine Ibex—see these mountain goats in the wild

This video captures a group of Alpine ibex in the wild. See these amazing animals in their natural habitat. (Those horns come in useful for scratching an itch!)

Although the title is in German, there is no narration. Just some wonderful filming.

The chamois is an Alpine goat with a coat that changes from a red-brown with dark underparts in summer to a blackish-brown with light underparts in winter. It has slim, curved horns. It can be recognised by the dark stripes from eye to nose.

The chamois is perfectly designed for high altitude living on mountainsides. This nimble animal has hooves that allow it to remain stable-footed on rocky ground. It eats grass and herbs.

The tuft of hair that is often seen on traditional alpine hats comes from the neck of the chamois. It is also known for its soft leather.

Common shrew

Common shrew

This little creature has a large, whiskered snout and tiny eyes. The common shrew is a carnivore and has a voracious appetite. It lives in woodland, and is not unique to the Alps but rather can be found in most countries of Europe.

Here's an interesting fact about shrews from Wikipedia:

Young shrews often form a caravan behind the mother, each carrying the tail of the sibling in front with its mouth.

Pine marten

Pine marten

The pine marten belongs to the same family as the badger, stoat and otter, and all can be found in the Alps. It lives in woodland and forests.

The pine marten has a dark coat with yellowish underparts and a distinctive yellow throat patch. It eats small mammals such as squirrels, birds and their eggs, and berries.

The eagle owl is the largest species of owl that is found in the mountains of the Alps. It can be up to 70 cm (27 inches) in height. The eagle owl has distinctive bright orange eyes and tufted ears, and feathered legs.

The eagle owl generally lives on high rocky ledges and hunts mammals and birds.

Other species of owl found in Alpine areas include in order of descending size: Tawny Owl, Long-Eared Owl, Barn Owl, Tengmalm's Owl, Little Owl, Scops Owl, and Pygmy Owl.

Video of a wild eagle owl visiting the city—eagle owl ignoring a cheeky crow!

I had read that the eagle owl was good-natured. The crow in this video puts that theory to the test as an eagle owl rests on a chimney in a city in Hungary.

The European lynx is a highly-protected species that has been reintroduced to the Alps. The populations of lynxes are more stable in other parts of Europe such as Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

This medium-size cat has a brown coat with dark speckles, a short tail with black tip, and tufted ears. It hunts deer, goats and smaller mammals.

A lynx can live up to 15 years and prefers a woodland habitat.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you learned something interesting about the animals of the Alps mountain range.

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