Snowshoeing in the Alps – How to protect wildlife in winter

Winter is an amazing time to get out and about in the Alps. The white beauty and silence create unique opportunities to experience nature. Of course, spotting wildlife is the icing on the cake for any snowshoe hike. But how to protect wildlife and enjoy the presence of wild animals without disturbing them?

Wildlife you might see whilst snowshoeing

During a wintry hike in the forest, it is much easier to spot animals because of the absence of thick foliage. Besides, the endless amount of tracks in the snow give exciting clues to which wildlife is active.

Some examples of animals that you might see during a snowshoe hike in the Alps are:

  • Ungulates, such as chamois, alpine ibex, and deer,
  • Small mammals, like foxes, squirrels, stoats and mountain hares,
  • Large birds of prey, such as bearded vultures and golden eagles,
  • A wide range of smaller birds, like nutcrackers, black grouse and hazel grouse.

Sensitive to disturbance

Grouse and ungulates are especially sensitive to distrubance by human activity. In winter, when these animals need to preserve their energy to survive and disturbing them can be harmful, even fatal. So, what can you do to respect these animals needs for peace and quiet?  

4 simple guidelines  

A swiss campaign (called Respectiere deine Grenzen) has set up four simple guidelines for those enjoying the Alps during wintertime. Following these guidelines is easy, and it truly helps wildlife to get through winter alive.

  1. Respect the boundaries of nature and wildlife reserves. These are the areas where animals can find absolute peace to forage and rest.
  2. Stay on paths and marked routes. This way, animals can get to know the places where people visit, and they can seek quieter places whenever they want.
  3. Avoid the forest edge and areas where there is no snow. These are the places where animals like to come and search for food. Give them space for that.
  4. Keep your dog on a lease, especially in the forest. Animals get frightened easily by the presence of dogs, especially when they run free through the forest. Keep your four-legged friend on the leash (and thus on the path).

Read more of our snowshoeing blogs

Simone van Velzen

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